Union talks of strike action as redundancies loom at BT

The Communication Workers Union has suggested strike action could be on the horizon if BT continues down its current path of restructuring.

In an opinion piece for The Tribunal, Deputy General Secretary for the Communications Workers Union (CWA) Andy Kerr criticised BT for potentially sacrificing the very employees who ensured UK society could function during the lockdown period.

“My last message is to BT Group: over the years we’ve made tremendous progress together,” said Kerr.

“By abandoning this direction, you risk an industrial action ballot and ultimately strike action if we cannot reach agreement. Our union will not stand by and see the workers who have built BT made compulsorily redundant as shareholders line their pockets and BT Sport presenters receive gold-plated contracts. Our door is open for genuine negotiations.”

While Kerr and the Communications Workers Union are quite right to resist redundancies and restructuring processes, the numbers suggest perhaps BT is a company which needs to make difficult decisions.

Revenue per employee in most recent quarter (in thousands, $)
Company Total revenue Employees Revenue per employee
BT 5,248 104 50.4
Vodafone UK 1,077 10 107.7
Vodafone Group 9,487 98 96.8
Virgin Media 1,234 14 88.1
O2 UK 1,473 21 70.1
Telefonica Group 9,337 114 81.9

As you can see from the table above, the revenue per employee figure at BT is not the most attractive. BT is arguably not making enough money and is employing too many people. To have more employees on your books than the entirety of the Vodafone Group should certainly raise some eyebrows.

This is not an issue which has crept up on the company, as there have been reports about redundancies circling BT for months. It has become a bloated corporation and one of the reasons Philip Jansen was appointed CEO was to sort out the mess that was this operational minefield, including a more effective integration of the €12 billion EE acquisition.

In the article, Kerr suggested the senior management team at BT and the CWA had been working together effectively for decades. This might be the case, but all organisations have to undertake difficult restructuring processes at some point.

It has been suggested BT would make mass redundancies, though the same result has been achieved through incremental staff reductions over longer periods of time at other telecoms companies. At Deutsche Telekom in Germany, for example, 20,000 jobs have been lost since 2015 as automation and remote operations become more commonplace.

Kerr and the CWA have a mission statement to protect the interests of employees in the telecoms sector, but they are effectively fighting the tide here. With more cloudification and digital transformation strategies underway in the telecoms sector, the workforce will change. Networks are becoming more software orientated, meaning new types of employees are sort as businesses are run from centralised operations centres not the field.


  1. Avatar Richard Weston 08/08/2020 @ 5:52 am

    What is the CWA?

  2. Avatar eric brown 08/08/2020 @ 6:44 am

    You always know when you are doing the right thing for the business and that’s when the unions start howling.
    Unions coupled with weak management have been the reason for poor performance in many UK companies.
    Both BT and the Post Office were years ago decoupled, the Post Office was virtually run by the unions and BT has never really dealt with bad practices from both its lower management and its workforce, both heavily unionised.
    Upper management has been wishy washy for years, BT is in bad need of a real boot boy to give it a real kicking.
    I know I was a BT manager years ago and it looks like nothing has changed since I left.

  3. Avatar Stevo 08/08/2020 @ 9:22 am

    The point you are missing is BT has taken on thousands of engineers. This has been demanded by a country that wants and needs fibre to the premises. The job cull at this moment is not engineering. It is the already stretched thin office and call centre people, under the guise of building centralisation. And that from a company that champions and indeed sells the tech to “work from anywhere!” Everyone at BT accepts times are changing but the lies told them about the buildings and the fact they can work from anywhere is ridiculous. And all this from a company that constantly shouts it is a green company, so now thousands will be commuting hundreds of miles weekly to work. We also still look up the tree at BT and still see tier after tier of BT management. That is where the problem lies, whole levels of management that do nothing but go on conference call after conference call.

  4. Avatar Graham Moore 08/08/2020 @ 11:58 am

    All I know is the share price is a total loss. I paid over £8 for my shares. True I have received dividends over the years, but my losses in share value are more than the dividends over that period of time!

  5. Avatar Phillip Evans 08/08/2020 @ 1:48 pm

    The union should have acted years ago, over bt,s abuse of its older workers who in some cases have given thirty to forty years service to this company and its total disregard to disabled workers who in many cases have been injured on the job, there record is there for anyone to see check openreach and bt reviews

  6. Avatar Susanwheeler 08/08/2020 @ 4:30 pm

    As a BT pensioner – my BT broadband package which included free w/e calls from Fri midnight until sun. My package came to an end – which I was unaware of it until I received the following months bill. I was sent an e-mail advising me of my package coming to an end- which I didn’t receive. I did receive a credit for this months BTpackage. My observation is that I didnt receive a phone call from a human being advising me of such.

  7. Avatar Prashant Mishra 08/08/2020 @ 5:09 pm

    BT is one of the famous companies in the telecom sector in the world not only just in the UK and Europe ,but around the world.It might be a shake-up in this sector as a part of restructuringThat’s because,this company supports a large number of employees and any redundancy should not hurt anyone in the management and the workforce…..

  8. Avatar michael wade 10/09/2020 @ 6:40 pm

    The union are a shambles. They are now opposing the very mechanism they helped BT put in place. They are complaining about BT using a mechanism that they are complicit in setting up…Sack the lot..

  9. Avatar Dr.Jones 17/10/2020 @ 7:34 pm

    I’m a middle manager at BT and it is bloated, inefficient and needs overhauling. It is a fast moving world and BT and the telecoms industry has changed and will continue to change like many technology driven sectors. The problem is, as usual, the senior management team and HR go about change in such an ill though out and clumsy way. They are absolutely hopeless and have been for years.. I was hoping PJ would really make a difference and really change things for the good but so far there’s little evidence of that.

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