“Why now?” asks Prospect as BT proceeds with relocations despite COVID-19

16 July 2020

Prospect has condemned a BT decision to forge ahead with its relocation strategy despite the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past week the company has revealed a proposal to close its office in Aberdeen with the potential loss of 141 jobs, and intends to start moving people into the new BT site at Three Snowhill, Birmingham.

The Aberdeen announcement – affecting 41 managers – is part of wider strategy to reduce the number of BT workplaces from 300 to 30 across the UK under the umbrella of its “Better Workplace Programme”.

Ten key future locations have so far been revealed – in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Three Snowhill in Birmingham,  Aldgate in London, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Ipswich (Adastral Park) and Manchester.

John Ferrett, Prospect national secretary, said: “We are dismayed that BT wants to go ahead with its relocation strategy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Aberdeen consultations

In Aberdeen, redundancy consultations have already begun, and Ferrett asked: “Why now, when most people are successfully working from home and seem likely to be doing so for the foreseeable future?

“It is particularly devastating for them to face yet more uncertainty in these very difficult times.”

BT has already been proceeding with redundancies under the People Framework restructure, even though Prospect asked for a pause at the outset of the pandemic.

“Now they are adding insult to injury by adding yet more uncertainty into the mix.

“We will be pushing for any redundancies to be voluntary, as well as pressing for other solutions to help employees keep their jobs, such as permanent home-working or relocation allowances and other financial support if they have to move to a new workplace.”

Ferrett raised a broader political concern about a major UK employer like BT pulling out of Scotland’s third biggest city.

“This is heightened by the complete removal of Technology roles in Scotland under Better Workplace,” he said. “Prospect will be lobbying politicians and working with the Scottish TUC to demand that BT retains a significant footprint and jobs within Scotland.”

Three Snow Hill move

Regarding Birmingham, Ferrett said Prospect has been told that 688 people will initially be moved into Three Snow Hill under phase one. The building has capacity for around 3,500 people although five of the 17 floors will be occupied by another tenant.

BT has said under phase one, most people are being moved from locations adjacent to the new site.

Ferrett said Prospect will be seeking to confirm that, as it is aware of some employees facing a 90-minute journey each way to the new site, and one who faces redundancy because of living too far away.

Earlier this year Prospect successfully negotiated improvements to the additional travel costs that BT pays for two years to those who incur extra expense during a relocation.