BT needs fresh approach to pay and staffing shake-up, says Prospect

24 January 2019

Prospect has called on BT to urgently rethink the way it is rolling out major changes to pay and staffing structures for managers and professionals across the organisation, and to listen to staff concerns.

Prospect national secretary Noel McClean wrote to Drew Matthews, BT’s director of reward, employee relations and pensions, this week, ahead of new BT chief executive, Philip Jansen, taking up the reins on 1 February.

Prospect wants BT to resume intensive talks with the union and produce a “best and final offer” by mid-February, so that we can then consult members in a ballot on whether or not to accept the People Framework changes.

Noel McClean said: “BT is bringing in the changes too fast, and on a piecemeal basis across different business units, before negotiations with the union have ended. Prospect did secure some improvements in earlier talks, but these don’t go far enough.

“Our members are the first to want BT to succeed and don’t oppose change in principle. But the brutal way this is happening leaves many individuals fearing for their future. Before Christmas we asked the company to pause the process while further talks were held but BT rejected this.

“People are baffled that their years of loyalty and dedication are being met by pay cuts or threats of dismissal. You do not get successful organisational change without the support of staff. We hope the new CEO will take heed of our concerns.”

Prospect is seeking:

  • the resumption of intensive talks
  • a final offer by mid-February that we can put to members.

Prospect concerns

Key concerns include:

  • The proposed new salary ranges are too low and too broad; BT is applying “individual exceptions”; and individual line managers will get more discretion – the opposite of a transparent pay system.
  • Many hundreds of people face a potential pay cut as their role is reorganised into the new staffing structure – though not even the company can say how many are affected. People whose pay is currently “above range” face the unpalatable choice of taking an immediate pay cut to keep their old terms and conditions, applying for a new role in the company (with no guarantee of success) or leaving with a settlement agreement. Those rejecting all three options face the threat of dismissal without compensation or being fired and rehired on less favourable terms.
  • The lack of transparency raises real worries about how BT will manage pay in future and the implications for pay equality and fairness.  

Snap survey

McClean highlighted a Prospect snap survey of BT members at the end of 2018, in which 85% stated pay clarity is “very important” to them, with a further 8% deeming it “important”. An overwhelming  97% supported the union view that the People Framework proposals so far “are unacceptable and need improving”. 

Even when not personally affected, 59% said it was “very important” and 17% “important” to secure arrangements for people over the salary ranges (ie facing a pay cut).

Jobs and redeployment

BT’s People Framework changes are being introduced in parallel with the company’s wider agenda of shedding 13,000 managerial and professional jobs globally and plans to rationalise the number of site to “around 30 UK locations”.

Prospect has also called on the BT to strengthen its commitment to redeployment in redundancy situations, in particular by not advertising jobs externally in the current climate and developing a company-wide plan to reduce reliance on agency labour.