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BT Operate: Field Engineering Attendance

4 October 2009

BT Operate Field Engineering has its own Transformation Programme and a programme with regards to attendance patterns and resourcing.

Discussion began at a joint Executive RDA presentation in Birmingham on 16 June 2009. A presentation was given, the content of which showed work activity and resource available; in general, it showed that for the Core and Customer Switch attendance was required and was taking place at the end of the day into early evening with some requirement over a Saturday. For HITS, whilst there was a presence in the evening, there was not a work demand requirement, as was the case for HITS Saturday working.

A Working Party was set up with agreed Terms of Reference and with the intention of working within existing frameworks. When the Working Party got under way, it became apparent that:

  1. The management side wanted five day working over six.
  2. In essence, this was not about customer demand not being met - because it was; it was the cost of how it was being met ie, callouts and overtime.

After some discussion, management accepted that the discussions were driven by point (ii) above. At this point in the series of meetings, there was resistance by both sides in making any further joint progress. Management were determined it had to be five out of six working; the Union position being that it had to be within existing frameworks as stated within the Terms of Reference for the Working Party. There also appeared, out of the blue and without any prior discussion or evidence, the need for flex working at the end of the day. From the Union side there was failure to understand how the five out of six could be applied from within existing agreements, as well as flex, until management revealed that they were adopting an agreement from BT Retail.

Stalemate was only broken when management accepted the principled position adopted by the Union which was the use of existing agreements already adopted and deployed within Field Engineering. In summary this is:

  1. The full implementation by voluntarism of the Network Operations Attendance pattern. In theory this was the agreement reached to be the future framework to be deployed back in 2005. This was never fully implemented, with management only using it for selecting people for 21CN and permanent night working.
  2. Maximising attendance arrangements within the Shorter Working Week Agreement (SWWA).

The attendance document which is based on the principles of (i) and (ii) above is the agreed way forward by the Executive team and the four RDA supporting representatives on the Working Party. In essence this is a revised Network Operations Attendance Framework, updating it since it was agreed and with the addition of new patterns. This will also coincide with discussions on the SWWA.

It is the Executiveís position that the RDAs and RBL management teams are free to negotiate on the following basis that:

  • Field Engineering has agreed that new attendance arrangements are to be determined and agreed on a regional basis and that consultation and negotiation on reaching agreement will take place between RBLs and RDAs.
  • Field Engineering has agreed that the data and the business rationale for changing attendance arrangements will be shared and subject to consultation and agreement with RDAs before notice for change is issued to members.
  • Field Engineering has agreed to seek the required attendance changes on a voluntary basis and will run a preference exercise across the whole of Field Engineering.
  • Field Engineering has agreed that management will not apply pressure on members to express a particular attendance pattern option(s).
  • Field Engineering and the Executive have agreed that any issue in dispute at RBL/RDA level can be escalated to CWU HQ and Field Engineering Employee Relations by either party and resolution will be sought within one week of escalation.

Because this will vary by product set, by region and by voluntary take up, it is not possible to be precise on the degree of late or Saturday working for some of the new options. However, management have committed to the following.

For the avoidance of all doubt there are two issues which the Executive would want to make clear from the onset and they are:

  1. To elect for an option from the Revised Network Operation Framework is entirely voluntary. Whether a member does not complete the form or only elect for one or two options is down to the memberís requirements and the memberís requirements alone. There will be no interference or intimidation tolerated. That is the signed off commitment from Field Engineering.
  2. From the Executiveís perspective flex has been removed with no evidence submitted for its deployment.

Whilst the focus has been very clear on the relaunch of the Network Operations Attendance Framework, it is also managementís intention to be exploiting within the existing framework of the SWWA the start and finish times in parallel discussions.