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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
'Selling off the family silver'
Protestors outside a BT demerger meeting in Birmingham
Employees voiced their concern about the demerger
Disillusioned BT workers protested against the demerger of the telecommunications firm's mobile phone division at the special shareholders' meeting on Tuesday.

They said the move pandered to big City investors.

Union members said they feared job losses would follow.

Union leader Bill McClory said the move to split off MMO2, formerly BT Wireless, into a separately-listed company was "bad value for customers, bad value for shareholders, and bad value for employees."

Hostile takeover

"BT is giving away an expanding part of the business. So workers now face an uncertain future.

"They don't know if they'll have a job in six or eight months' time or not," said Mr McClory, assistant secretary of the Communication Workers' Union (CWU).

Tracy Buckley, secretary of a Manchester branch of the CWU, said job losses were a major fear.

A worker dressed as the Grim Reaper at a BT meeting in Birmingham
The union says the demerger is "bad value"

She said the new company, MMO2, will be a prime target for a hostile takeover bid and BT itself will be open to asset stripping.

The group of about 30 protestors, including one dressed as the Grim Reaper, lobbied shareholders as they arrived for an extraordinary general meeting in Birmingham.

The BT unions have argued that a mix of fixed and mobile assets are a better strategy for the company.

But BT management said the demerger will give the two new companies, BT Group and MMO2, greater flexibility, allowing them to respond more quickly to challenges in the market.

No longer proud

At the protest outside the National Exhibition Centre in Birmigham, one BT employee said recent events have so disillusioned her so that she is no longer proud to work for BT.

Michelle Emerson, a BT engineer with Ignite in London, said she had lost faith in the management after working for 22 years with the company.

"BT doesn't value its customers or its workers anymore, it is only concerned in the short-term appeasement of the big City of London investors," she said.

Ms Emerson said the demerger of MMO2 was like "selling off the family silver."

Colin Parsons, a customer service engineer in London, added: "The City is calling all the shots and each one is causing more damage."

This is the thin edge of the wedge. It just doesn't make sense to sell a such a profitable part of the company

Colin Rich, BT employee

The telecommunications industry has been devastated as much as the mining industry over the past 12 years, he said.

The CWU represents about 80,000 engineers and adminstrative staff at BT.

Colin Rich, a CWU member from north London, said: "I think five or six other divisions of BT could be sold off next, such as the wholesale division.

"This is the thin edge of the wedge. It just doesn't make sense to sell a such a profitable part of the company."

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Business
BT approves mobiles spin-off
22 Oct 01 | Business
BT eyes Post Office vans
19 Sep 01 | Business
BT loses enquiries monopoly
05 Sep 01 | Business
Mall disputes BT name change
03 Sep 01 | Business
BT unveils new mobile brand
02 Sep 01 | Business
BT heads for November demerger
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