BT faces threat of possible strike action in row over jobs and pay

BT's Adastral Park is still key to its plans, the company insists, as row erupts over its national j

BT's Adastral Park is still key to its plans, the company insists, as row erupts over its national job cuts plans Picture: DAVID VINCENT - Credit: Archant

Communications giant BT has stressed that its Ipswich site will play a key role in its future as a row erupts over its plans to cut jobs and carry out a “root and branch” modernisation of the business.

Around 3,000 people are employed at Adastral Park — which it sees as a key strategic site and which is its largest single site in the UK.

But industrial action could be on the cards for the first time in more than 20 years as BT workers across the UK take part in a consultative ballot organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over whether to take industrial action. Voting is due to start later this month and close on December 10.

MORE – New Anglia LEP chair steps down following successful stintThe union has hit out at an “increasingly aggressive” approach from management, as the £23bn turnover company strives to make £2bn in yearly savings through a series of reforms.

The union has warned that if progress is not made in talks with the company, there was a “very real prospect” of a ballot for industrial action, which could pave the way to the first national strike in BT since 1994.

General secretary Dave Ward said: “This is the most important vote our members have ever been asked to cast since joining the company.

“This is about job security, pay and grading, rights at work and the future direction of the company.

“After decades of industrial stability, we are now seeing BT Group embark on a vicious programme of compulsory redundancies, site closures and attacks on pay, terms and conditions.

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“They are putting profit before people. We know many senior managers are saying some members will not be impacted by their plans - nothing could be further from the truth.

“If we stand by and let the company implement these changes without serious opposition, then the floodgates will open.”

Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr added: “We are asking members to support the union in the ballot and reject compulsory redundancies, uncertain job security, the driving down of pay, grading and protections, attacks on key workers, and a negative change in management style.”

The union will have to hold a ballot on industrial action if there is a yes vote in the consultative ballot.

But a BT spokesman insisted change was necessary as the company was in a very competitive market.

“We were excited to announce in June last year that our Adastral Park site, near Ipswich, will be a key location as part of our future plans.

“BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future. As the market continues to evolve and the needs of our customers change, we’ll need the right skills and capabilities in the business to adapt and respond.

“We also have a root and branch modernisation programme across the business that will create £2bn of annualised savings by 2025 through digitising, automating and simplifying many of our systems and processes.

“This will result in a smaller number of people in the business in five years’ time, largely by not filling roles as and when they become vacant, but we will prioritise providing retraining and reskilling, unlimited learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.

“If we don’t improve our productivity and efficiency, BT Group will fall behind in the highly competitive, highly regulated markets in which we operate.”

As part of its Better Workplace Programme, BT will exit its St Paul’s London site and will refurbish or move from some of its sites.

BT Group says its contribution to the UK economy is huge — estimating that it is responsible for generating £1 in every £75 produced across the UK.