Voice: Postal - July/August 2011 - (Page 11)
JULY | AUGUST 2011 VOICE
TELECOMS AND FINANCIAL SERVICES NEWS
Peace or strife at BT?
management, absence management and sick management processes…or face the consequences. Following on from CWU Annual Conference in Bournemouth, where concerns over performance management being used to 'manage people out of the business' dominated the agenda, the company has once again been warned it only has a narrow window of opportunity to tackle a raft of well-documented abuses of the process before a mandate for an industrial action ballot is triggered. The seriousness of the situation reported in detail on pages 7, 8 & 9 of the Telecoms Voice (see www.cwu.org) - was reiterated by assistant secretary Grace Mitchell at a meeting with senior managers on June 16. Instigated at the request of the CWU, that meeting was the first in a series of scheduled negotiations which will ultimately determine whether or not the union and the business are on the slippery slope to a dispute. The CWU's position - dictated by Conference - is unequivocal. Unless the company ceases the "cavalier and brutal" application of a raft of performance management policies by November 30, a ballot will be triggered for industrial action up to and including strike action.
ON THE WEB
View these Telecoms edition stories online at: www.cwu.org/voice/
Andy Kerr speaking at CWU Conference where Performance Management dominated the agenda
BT does need to recognise that the time for talking is fast running out
The gauntlet has been thrown down to BT to act without delay to address a tidal wave of anger over its application of performance
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr, who is now directly involved in the negotiations, told the Voice: "We've left BT senior management under no illusion whatsoever that the November 30 deadline is deadly
serious - and that it is ignored at the company's peril." Andy stressed, however, that the CWU "isn't looking for a dispute," and implored the company to recognise that the groundswell of anger from the grass roots is wellfounded and the clearest possible demonstration that performance management needs fixing. "We're absolutely committed to work with the company to address the concerns that Conference highlighted, " Andy concluded, "but BT does need to recognise that the time for talking is fast running out." Meanwhile, branches have been asked to escalate details of all performance management horror stories to CWU headquarters. Individual members who believe they have fallen foul of the processes, but have not already reported it to their local branch office, are advised to do so immediately.
n Final warning' to Retail An explosive cocktail of deep-seated disagreements with BT Retail combined with mounting evidence of serial broken promises by the company - is pushing the division to the brink of an industrial relations meltdown, the CWU is warning. Voice reports on a deteriorating situation which is linked with, but not exclusive to, a wider disagreement on the company's application of performance management.
Photo © Howard Burns
Face public exposure, Manpower warned
BETRAYAL OF AGENCY WORKERS
n Ultimatum on performance management Pent up frustration at BT's "punitive and brutal" application of performance management exploded into outright defiance at CWU Telecoms Industry Conference. With no less than a third of the motions on the agenda relating directly to welldocumented abuses of the process, a stark message has been sent to BT to fundamentally change its ways or brace itself for industrial action.
Manpower's moves to circumvent the aims of European legislation to stop the exploitation of agency workers will be met with a very public campaign to expose the agency's actions and BT's possible complicity. Furious CWU Telecoms Industry Conference delegates voted unanimously to commit the union to launch a high-profile 'name and shame' campaign following the trialling of new contracts at BT Retail's Doncaster, Warrington, Dundee, Newcastle, Truro and Lancaster customer service sites. The new contracts - which are presently only being issued to new starters, though fears are growing that Manpower may soon try to extend them to cover the existing agency workforce - bypass the 'equal treatment' aims of the EU's Temporary Agency Workers' Directive (TAWD) by seizing on a loophole which exempts agency workers who are paid between assignments. Prior to the move, the CWU had been hopeful that the TAWD's implementation in the UK on October 31 would end the 'second class' pay rates of thousands of UK agency workers who often work indefinitely for companies like BT. While, at present, the CWU's existing Manpower members should, in theory, still see their pay being uplifted to that of their directly employed counterparts come October 31, new joiners are now being required to "sign away" that right. In so doing, Manpower is exploiting an exemption in the TAWD negotiated by various Scandinavian governments
to protect the special benefits already enjoyed by top end agency workers in their own countries who are paid up to 80% pay between assignments by agencies. In the UK, however, the Coalition Government has perversely allowed the same exemption to apply to agency workers being guaranteed as little as one hour a week of guaranteed 'pay' at the minimum wage. In its new contract, Manpower has pitched the 'in-between assignment' rate at four guaranteed hours a week. While slightly higher than the minimum allowed, the impact is still devastating. "It perpetuates the ongoing discrimination of agency workers as far as pay rates are concerned," assistant secretary Sally Bridge explained to Conference. "We've taken legal advice and reserve our right to challenge Manpower regarding the compliance and legality of this contract when the regulations come into force. "It's our belief that this contract conflicts with the basic core objective of the Directive, which is to afford agency workers the same basic working and employment conditions as their permanent counterparts. The CWU has little alternative but to view this initiative by Manpower as a calculated and cynical move to avoid their responsibility of awarding equal pay." Sally added: "We've raised our concerns with BT that, as the hirer, they also have responsibilities to ensure that the regulations are not circumvented in this way. "We ask Manpower again to think about the action it is taking and withdraw from this trial…but if the
decision is to continue to roll out this contract, and BT acquiesces, then we'll have no alternative but to make a very public display of opposition. "If Manpower attempts to impose this contract on existing Manpower employees who would otherwise qualify for equal pay under the Directive come October 31, then we will have to consider a more direct form of action." Seconding the emergency motion, Danielle Prout of Liverpool Clerical branch - herself a Manpower employee at BT's giant Warrington customer service centre - poignantly explained what is at stake. "I'm expected to deliver the same level of service as my BT colleagues, but I do so for less money, less annual leave and for inferior terms and conditions," Danielle told Conference. Pointing out that, for thousands
like her, the TAWD had been "the light at the end of the tunnel," Danielle stressed: "I'm appalled that, hand-inhand with BT, Manpower is trying to find loopholes to avoid equal treatment. At the moment only new employees are being put on this contract, but I'm convinced Manpower and BT will soon try to force existing staff on to them." Matt Gillett of South West & Thames Valley branch urged the union to ruthlessly expose the injustice of Manpower's actions at every opportunity - especially targeting the local media to maximise the company's discomfiture. "What a nasty, low and cynical move this is by Manpower," he said.
This story is featuring in E-Voice and online on
n Never again - Openreach told! A stark message has been sent to Openreach that the CWU is not prepared to see a repeat of the 'forced overtime' fiasco under which the company invoked the 'contractual overtime' clause in the Service Delivery Transformation agreement to cover systemic resourcing shortages. Despite the announcement of 1,250 new permanent jobs in field engineering - which should consign the company's misuse of contractual overtime to history - continuing anger over the debacle erupted at CWU Annual Conference in Bournemouth.
Photo © D Russell / Shutterstock
CWUTV footage from the Conference debate on agency workers’ rights can be viewed here
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Voice: Postal - July/August 2011
Voice: Postal - July/august 2011
General Secretary’s Column
Improving Job Security for All
The Latest Industry News
Child’s Play at Mount Pleasant
Shaping Up to Meet Future Challenges
CWU Salures CUPW-Sttp & TUC Awards
News Updates From the Telecoms Industry
General Strike Now Needed!
Epic Relay for CWUHA
Voice: Postal - July/August 2011