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D-Day Looming for Openreach

3 July 2015

CWU negotiators have sent their strongest warning yet to BT Openreach management that they must fully adhere to agreed principles for change "in practice and on the ground" if a large-scale national industrial dispute over controversial site rationalisation plans is to be avoided.

Openreach management have eventually conceded CWU negotiators' demands for a set of nine Key Principles to be followed for this and all major change programmes. Branch delegates at this year's Annual Conference endorsed the Key Principles - but with the proviso that a failure to abide by the protocol would spark a national industrial ballot. The national branch reps' briefing in June 2015, expressed solid support for the CWU national negotiating team in their ongoing efforts to shift the company's stance.

"Over the past month, we've sat down together and taken a long hard look at the operational plans and also at other forthcoming reorganisations affecting different functions of the business - and there seems to now be a reluctant acceptance by the company that the change plan did not start well," explained assistant secretary, Davie Bowman. Since the situation first arose, the union's position has remained that of seeking to maintain the highest number of highly-skilled and highly graded roles in as many locations as possible."

And the union has also told the company that it would be "unacceptable" to replace people who have been moved to other lines of business with either third-party or offshore resource. "As well as adding insult to injury for our affected members, that would also be a completely illogical step that would actually add significantly to overall cost," said Davie. "We've said repeatedly that we do not intend to stop every bit of change, but that there have to be additional sites added," Davie explained, adding: "Our members demand real evidence on the ground that the key principles are being fully adhered to in practice."

Davie Bowman

A meeting of all Single Point Of Contact reps and a full meeting of the union's Telecoms Executive are scheduled for the first and second weeks of July 2015. The union's Conference policy authorises the CWU's Openreach national team to formally request an emergency sitting of the Executive and to request their immediate agreement to initiate the industrial action ballot process.

"We're fully aware of the significance of our taking this step and of the responsibility this entails, but unless there is genuine evidence on the ground, that the company is fully adhering, in practice, to the agreed Key Principles, the business will leave us with no alternative but to make this formal request of the Executive - we're constitutionally instructed to do so."

Davie Bowman