BT has issued a major challenge to its workers' CWU union, and the challenge looks set to spark a strike ballot. BT plans to transfer core workers to a private company.
If it gets away with its plan it means no worker in the company will be safe from being handed over to a private company and pushed onto much worse conditions. The attack is centred in the Business Information Systems division of BT, a unit of some 4,500 workers who provide telecom services to major companies. Within this division of the company is a group of workers (in the Data and Desktop Services section) who provide support for BT's internal computers. BT wants to hand these 370 workers to ComputaCentre. It then wants to bid for business using its brand name, but in 'partnership' with ComputaCentre. This amounts to subcontracting core BT work.
The entire ComputaCentre workforce is on individual contracts, and pay is based on performance. The move is a part of a drive by BT to boost profits by pushing workers onto worse pay and conditions, and undermining their union organisation. 'If they get away with this now it spells the end for all BT engineers,' one worker explained. 'If we don't fight now, we never will.'
The CWU has repeatedly avoided a showdown with the company in recent years. The union leaders must rise to the challenge now. The executive has agreed to ballot on action over the new attack, though who will be balloted is still being debated.