Staff and unions in East Lancashire have accused BT of being “tone deaf” after it emerged a number of its Openreach workers in the county will be made redundant amid the coronavirus outbreak.

42 people in the UK - two in Lancashire - who work for the company’s broadband and telecoms branch were told at the beginning of March they would be losing their jobs at the end of April, but that it was not related to the virus epidemic.

Days later the government announced a £350bn package of support for businesses during the virus outbreak, but BT intends to continue with its job cuts – something staff and unions say they are deeply unhappy about.

A member of the team, who did not want to be named, told the Lancashire Telegraph: “The problem we've got with all is the fact that BT has nearly 100,000 people working for it and we think that we could easily be put into other roles in the business.

“The day they made the announcement there were jobs advertised, very similar to ours, in other parts of the business.

“But we're just not being given the time to apply for those and the problem we've got is that BT is basically stopping recruitment.

“What we don't understand is why the company isn't applying to the government for furlough and putting us on that scheme.

“Most of us have worked for the business all our lives - man and boy - I've personally done over 20 years of service and I've got colleagues who've done 30 years’ service.

“It's literally the worst possible time and everyone's stress levels are completely off the's a worrying time.”

The worker said he and many of his colleagues will struggle to pay their mortgages on Universal Credit and are at risk of losing their homes.

John Ferrett, Prospect national secretary, said: “This response from BT is not only tone deaf but inexcusable in the context of a wider economy that has effectively shut down.

“The work of our members in keeping people connected has never been more important and they deserve to be treated with respect and care at this time.

“Instead of adopting partnership working to deal with the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime, BT has chosen to issue communications with no prior notification to the unions.

“We implore BT to reverse its decision on redundancies and start working collaboratively with Prospect.”

In response to the accusations, an Openreach spokesperson said: “Openreach is still in the middle of its biggest ever recruitment drive – hiring 6,500 engineers over the past two years.

“We recently announced some proposed changes to our Customer Network Solutions (CNS) unit, as part of our ongoing efforts to simplify the business.

“The changes are designed to serve our customers better by moving work that’s currently carried out by CNS into Openreach’s dedicated delivery units.

“These proposals impacted a number of colleagues, so we needed to follow a collective consultation process with the unions and employee representatives.

“We’re working very hard to minimise the need for compulsory redundancies, by offering voluntary payments and helping people who want to stay within Openreach or the wider BT Group to redeploy, retrain and relocate.”