Openreach Service Delivery Transformation

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Further Negotiations - Project Beck

6 July 2009

In the negotiations with Openreach, the CWU Executive team has focused on trying to remove the immediate threat of Project Beck and the resultant threat specifically to members in the Complex teams and all members in Openreach.

Openreach

Openreach has issued Invitations to Tender to a number of companies for both civils and non-civils work. The desire to have one company doing all civils work currently outsourced does not pose any major problems for the Union. However, should the company decide to outsource all Complex work as well as NGA build, this would be a direct threat to around 9000 members in Openreach.

The CWU recognises that future Government funding for Digital Britain will not automatically flow to Openreach. There will undoubtedly be a tendering process that means Openreach will have to compete with bids from other companies. Only those companies that make competitive bids on cost and quality will win the work. That is why there is an obligation on the CWU to try to work with Openreach to find a mutually acceptable method of both raising efficiency and reducing unit costs. Whilst there are obvious short term threats to jobs from Project Beck, the failure by Openreach to win at the very least a significant amount of NGA work could mean permanent exclusion.

CWU Assistant Secretary Ian Cuthbert has written to Openreach setting out the Unionís priorities.

GPS Technology

The union have been clear that the previous SDT package no longer exists. He has gained agreement that the Code of Practice on GPS technology is an agreed document between the CWU and Openreach. Further work on this document is being done to improve clarity on a number of aspects.

Management Style

The CWU and Openreach are continuing to review and develop management style issues. In recent weeks there have been meetings on the Critical Defect process and on the disciplines arising from safety issues. Progress is being made on both fronts.

Grading

In terms of the earlier grading proposals, the Union has formally indicated that they were unacceptable and divisive. Given the immediate threat to jobs, the Union does not believe that this is the time to progress such talks. Inevitably we will return to this issue but we have been clear that this will be based on the NewGRID job evaluation process.

Attendance Patterns

The immediate and most pressing issue surrounds the insistence by Openreach that it needs the attendance pattern changes to preserve existing jobs and to compete effectively not just for NGA build but, as importantly, the products and services that will be in demand in Digital Britain. In response to challenges from the CWU that there did not appear to be tangible or short term rationale for the scale of change, Openreach has shared some very comprehensive and detailed information on current overtime use; failures due to Out of Time and call-outs. Whilst accepting that some of the data presents a compelling argument, the CWU is recognises that many members cannot, for personal reasons, work evenings or Saturdays. One area of focus is to try to ensure that membersí work/life balance is preserved as much as possible.

Outlook

The Invitation to Tender process means that there will be a few short weeks before Openreach has to make a decision on the responses. The negotiations on Attendance Patterns will be a critical factor in any decision by the company. That is why the Union is putting much time and effort into finding a mutually acceptable solution that can be placed before members in a ballot. In the coming weeks the decisions made by both the CWU and Openreach will inevitably change the outlook forever.