BT building in Crawley Town centre
BT building in Crawley Town centre

New figures show the Government’s refusal to extend furloughing is putting another 11,500 jobs in Crawley at risk. For months we’ve called for targeted support, backed by Labour nationally, to safeguard these local jobs in the hardest hit sectors. With 14,750 local jobs in air travel, hospitality and tourism, if the Government fails to act while continuing to impose restrictions making it impossible for these sectors to function profitably, Crawley will suffer the worst job losses of any part of the UK under this Government.

Having already addressed this at length in past columns, the need for a targeted extension of furloughing is not in fact the topic I’d like to cover today. Instead, the jobs I’m writing about this week are in a very different sector.

As the pandemic forced strict limits on physical interaction, life in the UK moved online. Remote working became the norm for industries where it was feasible and Zoom played an increasingly major role in both people’s jobs and personal lives.

The internet may be intangible, but it’s built on the nation’s physical telecommunications infrastructure and in the UK the bulk of that continues to be provided by the BT Group, even for non-BT customers. Were it not for the essential workers who make up the company’s workforce and their enormous efforts keeping things going in the face of a vast increase in demand upon that infrastructure, the lockdown would have gone very differently.

So, how does a company whose products have seen huge growth in use through the pandemic reward the essential workers who kept it going? Unbelievably, the answer is with compulsory redundancies, hundreds of which are set to take place here in Crawley.

It’s understandable that industries hit-hard by COVID are being forced restructure, but what part of telecomms is struggling so much it justifies forcing people out of the door. It smacks of opportunism at a moment of national crisis, adding unnecessary pressure to an already struggling jobs market. It’s just wrong and that’s why we should all stand with BT workers as they fight for local jobs through their #CountMeIn campaign.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

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