BT staff set to be transferred to Computacenter in a major outsourcing deal could strike over pension rights after the Communication Workers Union (CWU) last week balloted the 377 affected employees.
Discussions between BT, Computacenter and the CWU concerning the rights of workers under Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment (Tupe) regulations have broken down over pensions.
"We are balloting members because the assurances given by BT and Computacenter are insufficient to change our minds. Computacenter will not give us an enduring commitment to [workers'] pensions," said Ian Cuthbert, assistant secretary at the CWU.
The union has posted ballot papers to members, and the result will be known on 4 March after the expiry of the minimum seven-day period.
The news follows a number of "sharp exchanges" between the union and the companies involved which reached a stalemate last week.
Mike Norris, chief executive at Computacenter, said: "The reason why pensions are an issue is because the Tupe law does not cover pensions. It is the union's job not to be happy and I think it's doing a good job looking after its workers."
He added that it is up to BT to ensure that the employees' demands are met.
Robert Morgan, chief executive at outsourcing firm Morgan Chambers, agreed. "It is absolutely in the hands of the client company and in the process of law," he said. "BT has a responsibility to factor the cost of these benefits into the deal."
But he warned that "the outsourcing company is unlikely to be able to match everything".
Disgruntled BT staff have claimed that the telco broke the law by not informing the union when the deal was first proposed.
"If they have not been informed in time they have a case to fight it," explained Morgan. But BT insisted that the union was informed in time to meet Tupe obligations.
Norris said that because BT is a technology company it made it harder for staff to accept the changes. "The BT deal is more difficult than most because it is an IT company and a lot of the IT support staff have worked at the front end of its business," he explained.
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