Protests in Shrewsbury and Oswestry over BT site closures threat

Workers were today protesting outside BT buildings in Shropshire over fears that 300 jobs could be lost in a site closure programme.

The BT Exchange on Town Walls, Shrewsbury. Photo: Google StreetView.
The BT Exchange on Town Walls, Shrewsbury. Photo: Google StreetView.

The telecommunications giant announced that only 30 major sites will remain in the UK, including Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff, leaving workers at the BT Exchange on Town Walls, Shrewsbury, and the BT Networks Centre at Whittington House, near Oswestry, waiting to hear if they still have jobs.

For the first time in its history BT has announced there will be compulsory redundancies and the migration of its workforce to city centres.

The Communication Workers Union has said a number of employees have already been targeted for forced redundancy and others are being told their new office is in Birmingham, despite no announcement as to the future of the Shrewsbury and Oswestry buildings.

A spokesperson for the union, representing BT employees, said: “This uncertainty for employees is extremely stressful. As key workers, they have gone the extra mile to keep the communications network running.

"Ironically since the Covid-19 pandemic the vast majority of employees have successfully worked from home. Yet despite BT promoting home working technology to other businesses, they seem intent on making their own workforce commute for hours into city centres with higher Covid-19 infection rates than in Shropshire."

'Avoidable'

He added: “Despite a falling share price, moving to city centre sites is costing twenty times more than using the BT buildings locally.

“The UK economy, already failing before Covid-19, has seen thousands lose their jobs but for BT these losses are avoidable. The company has not looked for volunteers before taking the compulsory option and jobs are still going offshore to countries in the EU and to Asia. One of BT’s slogans is ‘Keeping it Local', and for the sake of these workers and the local economy of Shropshire, we need to keep these centres open.”

A BT Group spokesman said: “We haven’t announced the closure of our Shrewsbury or Oswestry offices. BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future. As the market continues to evolve and the needs of our customers change, we’ll need to adapt and respond.

“Our Better Workplace Programme, first announced in 2018, will improve and consolidate BT’s footprint of corporate offices, contact centres and specialist sites across the UK.

"Colleagues based at BT’s new or refurbished locations will benefit from our investment in future-fit workspaces and our ambition is to increase efficiency and productivity, improving our ability to do the best for customers. We’ll continue to consult with colleagues and their unions on any proposed changes.”

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