CWU will fight to stop Openreach separation


Union responds with own 10-point rebuttal, claiming there is no evidence any other provider will commit the required levels of investment

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has defended the full integration of Openreach within BT, promising to “push the button” on a national campaign to stop it being broken up.

Last month, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and a number of other broadband providers signed an open letter to Ofcom setting out a 10-point plan to dramatically reform the infrastructure arm of the telecoms provider.

The letter, which was also signed by the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) and the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) was sent to the telecom regulator’s CEO Sharon White, urging her to put in place measures that would ensure to ensure Openreach is fit to equip the UK for future communication challenges.

10-point plan
It followed a decision in February by Ofcom that ruled out full separation as an immediate option, instead stating it would consider less disruptive options, such as operational separation. The letter challenged White to enact several reforms, including full Openreach and BT separation.

However, CWU deputy general secretary (telecoms) Andy Kerr (pictured) has hit back with a 10-point rebuttal of his own, in which he explains how breaking up BT would “restrict broadband coverage and undermine quality of service improvements”.

He also argues that an overhaul in Openreach governance to make it a separate entity would force it to renegotiate some £4 million property and 32,000 employee contracts. This would be time consuming and expensive, diverting money and effort away from modernising the network.

Other points include a rebuttal against ensuring Openreach has its own standalone corporate identity and brand, adding he fails to see how this will incentivise investment from other telecoms providers, create better outcomes for consumers and deliver a world class network across the county.

The CWU said the controversy sparked by Sky Group CEO Jeremy Darroch, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding and Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp is aimed at putting pressure on Ofcom to recommend the splitting up of BT in its report, which is expected at the end of this month.

It added that if separation is recommended by the regulator, it is committed to “push the button” on a national campaign, both politically and industrially, to prevent this from happening.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone UK, and indeed any other telecoms provider, will commit anywhere near the required levels of investment to deliver a world class network right across the country,” said Kerr.