BT faces the threat of strikes over job cuts

UK engineering union Prospect has announced 100 BT union rep members voted on the telco’s proposal to cut 13,000 management jobs.

An emergency motion allowing members to keep all options open was proposed at the Prospect BT annual conference and passed unanimously. What exactly that means remains to be seen but whenever unions grow restive, industrial action is the WMD in the room, and it’s easy to see how that could be very damaging to BT on many levels.

The specific phrasing of the emergency motion was: “BT’s plans to cut 13,000 jobs are unworkable, are not thought through, and will cause very serious damage to the company’s operations in both short term and longer terms.” It’s standard practice for people contemplating going on strike to try to frame it as concern for the company but, of course, it’s all about concern for their own livelihoods and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“BT’s short-termist approach prioritises profits over people and could result in the business not being prepared for the future,” said Prospect national secretary Philippa Childs. “Many of the people in the roles affected by BT’s proposed cuts are highly qualified with specialist expertise and have been integral to developing and supporting the communications infrastructure throughout the UK.

“World-class research and development is one of the driving forces behind the future of our economy, particularly as Brexit approaches. The government must meet with unions and stakeholders to ensure that any job cuts don’t disrupt development.”

We don’t know how BT management has communicated this stuff to its workforce, but it seems likely that when the news went public last week, the majority of BT employees felt pretty anxious and unsettled. This could just be an attempt to make the redundancy negotiations more favourable to Prospect members, but Patterson and his team would be well advised to take the prospect (no pun intended) of industrial action seriously.