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Fears for homeworkers as BT workers look set to strike

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has a BT strike ballot scheduled for early June if an agreement can’t be reached over potential redundancies.

If it goes ahead, the strike action would come at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are still working at home due to the pandemic.

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr has given the telecoms giant three weeks’ notice to halt “its attack on the workforce”, or face the prospect of a nationwide strike. A strike would the first UK-wide industrial action at BT since 1987.

Kerr and CWU president Karen Rose are today holding talks with BT in a bid to avert strike action from union members working for BT, Openreach and EE.

The CWU says it has a long track record of working with BT to introduce changes and keep BT and Openreach “operational, modern and efficient”. It says this has always been done on the basis of negotiation, of agreement, and crucially  without compulsory redundancies.

In most cases when BT jobs have been cut there has been the opportunity for affected workers to transfer to other parts of the company or to take a voluntary severance package.

But the CWU says the current leadership at the top of BT and Openreach have “unilaterally torn up this longstanding arrangement and have, effectively, declared war on this trade union”.

The union says that for more than a year, BT chiefs have forced through unagreed changes to the structure of the business and have put increasing numbers of hard-working employees onto their ‘at risk of redundancy’ lists.

In return for the company agreeing to pause its redundancy programme, the union has agreed to pause triggering the statutory industrial action ballot process.

Kerr said: “This is a small victory. We’re around the table now and we will work 24/7 over the next three weeks to make sure we get the right deal for all of you.”

But he warned that unless sufficient progress is made in the talks, the union will “push the button” on a statutory national industrial action ballot of some 40,000 members working for BT, Openreach and EE at the beginning of June.

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