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BT’s rejection of plan to protect 100 jobs in Alness sparks union fury

By Scott Maclennan

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The BT call centre at Ardroy House is under threat. Picture: James Mackenzie.
The BT call centre at Ardroy House is under threat. Picture: James Mackenzie.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has reacted with anger after BT rejected a counter-proposal that would save the 100 jobs at risk in the call centre in Alness.

The move was earlier described by Highland Labour MSP Rhoda Grant as "a lazy and cash-saving" exercise.

The CWU, representing workers at the BT call centre in Alness, said the company has refused to accept a workable alternative to the planned closure that would maintain jobs in the town.

Over 100 BT and Blue Arrow agency staff jobs are under threat because BT wants to slash the number of its sites across the UK from 300 to 30 despite the Alness centre being identified by BT as a ‘Key Service centre location’ as recently as 2021.

The move would sever its connection relationship with the Easter Ross town that goes back almost 25 years and seen BT become a major local employer providing jobs and opportunities in an area where large employers are few and far between.

BT claims that there are opportunities for workers to commute or redeploy to Dundee – three hours by car or four hours by train one way – or Manchester but for the overwhelming majority of workers this is not a credible alternative.

So the CWU put forward a series of alternative proposals that would help retain jobs in the Highland town including getting BT to recognise the unique circumstances posed by the remote location of the site.

The union wants the company to vary its hybrid working policy to allow workers to work from home for the majority of the week with the rest of their time spent at Thurso.

CWU National Officer, Alan Aldred said: “We believe our counter-proposal makes sense from both the individual and business perspective, and we believe it achieves this with no detriment and indeed with some advantages to the business.

“Our proposals will prevent a large number of redundancies in one of the most remote areas of the UK where alternative employment opportunities are scarce.

“It also counters recent accusations in the media, and by others, that BT is abandoning local communities by concentrating its physical presence in cities at the expense of fragile outlying communities.”

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said, “BT Business owes it to its hard working and loyal employees in Alness to give serious consideration to this detailed CWU counter-proposal. I expect careful consideration to be given to these sensible and workable ideas.

“We are calling on community leaders and politicians to support our campaign to retain these vital jobs at Alness.”

A BT Group spokesperson revealed that though there would be no impact on customers the Highlands would lose out on major investment.

He said: “BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future, and as part of the Better Workplace programme we’re reviewing our buildings across the UK against our long-term requirements.

“In Alness, we have proposed to close our local site and are consulting with impacted colleagues in detail over what this could mean for them. There will be no impact to customers.

“We remain committed to Scotland as a long term location for the business. We are focused on our major Scottish offices including the multi-million pound refurbishments of our Glasgow and Dundee offices as well as our significant investments in both Edinburgh and Thurso.”

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