BT shareholders attending today's [Tuesday] Emergency General Meeting (EGM) will be met by hundreds of workers angry over the telco's proposed £7bn demerger of O2, formally BT Wireless.
The BT staff are to join a demonstration by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) against the demerger, which it says will inflict "terrible long term harm" on the telco.
Jeannie Drake, deputy general secretary at the CWU, said: "This is like no other dispute in the history of the trade union movement. It has nothing to do with pay or conditions - simply a genuine desire to stop the company inflicting terrible long term harm on itself where there is no commercial justification."
Fearful of the job cuts that may follow the demerger, the union has been lobbying city fund managers to vote against it, saying the split means the end of BT as an integrated telecoms provider.
Drake said: "Crazy though it sounds, the union is having to turn to the City to try to save BT's bosses from themselves."
The union believes the demerged O2 would become a takeover target.
Drake added: "If that were to happen, the buyer would be likely to get it for a song, financed courtesy of BT shareholders. Any gains from holding BT Wireless shares would be more than wiped out by a reduction in the value of BT Future shares, and BT Wireless would lose the benefits of its current relationship with BT Retail.
"BT would have lost the growth potential from its mobile wing, no longer be able to exploit opportunities that accrue to integrated telecom companies... yet would still be saddled with the debts built up by investing in 3G licences and infrastructure it no longer owns."
"Even at this late stage BT owes it to employees and shareholders alike to pause for thought and reconsider the wisdom of the break-up route, particularly for Cellnet, its UK mobile arm. Having paid £9.2bn for 39 mobile licences in the UK and Germany, to now exclude itself from the mobile market is not a decision it should be taking in such haste."
However, many shareholders have already voted by proxy and are believed to have backed BT's plans.
Indeed, it is thought that the decision to spin off O2 was a key factor in convincing institutional investors to support BT's £5.9bn rights issue earlier this year.
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