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Openreach SD: Improved Winter Agreement

13 November 2013

The National Team (NT) have held briefings, to which every Branch with Openreach members was invited, where there was discussion over the reasons why a majority of those taking part in the ballot rejected the proposed agreement. The need for change, the process that led to the proposed change and the availability of attendance pattern options featured in every contribution during those debates. Other issues associated with being employed in the work areas affected were also referred to by Branch representatives as influencing factors in the views being expressed by our members.

One particular issue that Branches believed was a key factor in members decision to reject the original proposed agreement was their belief that the changes affecting those people on attendance patterns with an RDO was driven by Openreach’s determination to move everyone onto a five-day week pattern on a permanent basis.

Although Openreach did present information to the Union that reflected their view that five-day working was more effective than four-day working, this has never been accepted by the CWU NT who insisted that the only reason that change would be considered was on the basis of the ‘Utilisation of Daylight Hours’ for a specific period during the winter months. Therefore, the discussions between the CWU and Openreach have been restricted to that specific rationale.

New Agreement

The NT and Executive have set out previously that if agreement could not be reached with Openreach and the company chose to serve notice of changes to attendances, then a ballot for industrial action would be initiated. Negotiations with Openreach have been challenging. The NT’s ability to move the company from a position of imposed changes has been strengthened by the resolve and determination of the entire membership covered by these changes. Our members have been clear in their views across SD Field and NO&TV regardless of their current roster pattern. As a direct result of that determination, the Executive has now been able to reach an agreement with Openreach which is substantially different from imposed changes. This means that the requirement to engage in a ballot for industrial action has been removed.

The agreement has two elements:

  • A temporary agreement for changes to attendance patterns for this winter. This guarantees that all those involved in the preference exercise will be given their first preference.
  • An agreed negotiating agenda with no pre-conditions to develop a solution for future years. The outcome of those discussions will be subject to a membership ballot early next year following consultation with members, Branches and Single Points of Contacts (SPOCs).

Winter 2013/14

The movement from Openreach achieved by the NT must be measured against the original position set out by Openreach, which included all those with an RDO would move to a five-day week for a period of 22 weeks. That would have resulted in individuals for example on a four-day week having 22 RDOs removed across the winter period. The scale of that disruption to their work life balance was an unacceptable element of that approach.

The agreement for this year is substantially different with regard to the impact on individuals. The key dates and details are as follows:

  • Start date – 16 December 2013.
  • Finish date – 22 March 2014 (this means that the duration this year will be 14 weeks).
  • All those participating will get their first choice in the preference exercise from a nine-day fortnight, 14-day three-week, 19 day four-week and a five-day week.
  • Notice period of at least 4 weeks
  • Removal of the 17.40 finish for those who choose a nine-day fortnight.

Winter 2014/15 and Future Years

This is a crucial element of the agreement reached as it allows the CWU and Openreach the opportunity to discuss the requirement for winter working in future years in an environment with no preconditions. The NT and Executive are setting out a clear commitment to members, Branches and SPOCs that during the negotiating process regular updates and input from those affected will take place. A major change in approach will be that key elements of changes to attendances will be discussed and agreed at Regional level. The full scope of that input will be discussed in the coming weeks.

Summary

The NT and Executive have listened carefully to feedback from individual members, Branches and SPOCs. Our members, through the outcome of the consultative ballot, made clear that the proposed solution to the better utilise daylight hours during the winter period was not acceptable and both the company and the CWU have recognised that in reaching agreement.

We can now spend the coming weeks discussing and developing the final solution to be placed before members. That will include consultation with those affected in varying forms.

The strength of our members resolve has ensured that the position reached is far different from where this process started. The aim of the negotiations ahead of the CWU will be to minimise the level of disruption for individual team members whilst recognising the business requirements associated with the utilisation of daylight hours during the winter months.