BT urged to revamp £2.3bn sale

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BT is being pressed by the unions to restructure a £2.3bn deal to sell off its property. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is concerned that 650 workers will have no choice about whether they stay employed by BT or are transferred to a new property company, owned by Land Securities and William Pears Group.

About 400 people involved with BT's 7,000 buildings are ancillary staff, and not considered commercial property specialists. Simon Sapper, the CWU's assistant secretary, said: "[Our members] are particularly aggrieved that the choices offered to some other BT groups during restructuring have not been offered to them."

The CWU is seeking urgent talks with BT and Land Securities to thrash out new terms. But it is understood BT and Land Securities have already agreed workers will keep their final salary pension schemes after transferring to the new joint venture property company, Telereal.

BT's 250 commercial property specialists are generally happy to work for Telereal, it is believed. The plan to sell off the properties has been hit by legal glitches. The deal was to be completed this month, but last week the Independent on Sunday revealed it may not be finished until early next year. Sources close to BT said that if the deal completes to the revised timetable then staff will be transferred to Tele- real on 31 March next year.

BT's appetite for the deal, struck in January when it was desperate to start reducing its £30bn debt mountain, has been questioned. After disposals and a bumper rights issue led by new chairman Sir Christopher Bland, BT's debt stands at £17.5bn.

Earlier this month, it said it would lop off another £500m of debt when it demerges its wireless arm in November.