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BT Holborn: BT Operate - Attendance Issues

22 January 2010

The CWU members of the Joint Working Party met on Monday 18 January 2010, the to review the progress of the discussions at regional level.

BT Operate management stated:

“it is wholly unacceptable that we have been unable to reach local agreement on the implementation of changes to attendance patterns that are necessary for us to deliver our customer requirements. The root cause of this failure to agree appears to be local CWU opposition to attendance patterns that finish beyond 6.15pm and also a refusal to accept that Saturday should constitute part of the normal working week.”

The Union strongly denied the statement considering our understanding of the status of the discussions so far and of the agreed objectives as presented in the statement. It is clear to the Executive team and to the CWU Regional Development Agency (RDA) members of the Joint Working Party (JWP) that there was a wide difference in the understanding of how matters had progressed (or not) at local level.

It is a fact that a number of RDAs have or are about to reach agreement; this includes attendance beyond 6.15pm and on Saturday cover. It is also clear that in some cases verbal agreement has been reached between the RDA and BT Operate Regional Business leaders (RBL) only to see that agreement effectively withdrawn following a meeting of all RBLs. A few of the RDAs have not progressed to a stage where agreement has been possible.

The Union has requested that management ask RBLs to confirm that where agreement, written or verbal, was reached in meetings between the RBL and RDA, the details be provided.

No Compulsion for Late or Saturday Cover

The CWU Executive has made it clear that our understanding is the agreement does not compel nor deliver 7.30pm end of day working across each workstream, in every location and for every member. The same can equally be said for Saturday working. In fact some of the proposals for some workstreams have shown no requirement for cover to 7.30pm and agreement has been reached.

It remains the Executive team’s position that if the business case shows that workstream activity is not matched by available resource, then agreement on end of day times beyond 6.15pm and Saturdays, will not be unreasonably withheld.

Potential Breakdown of Negotiations

The apparent attitude of management would indicate that if agreement/progress is not made very shortly, then in effect the discussions would stop or be declared to have broken down, the proposals withdrawn and the Union presented with a position of receiving mirror image proposals of that in Openreach and notice being served to implement.

It was pointed out to management that the vast majority of extra current expenditure on overtime and call-out happens between whatever normal finish time is in the field and up to 6.15pm. It was clear there were no guarantees that in a settlement of a resultant dispute that they would achieve their original objectives.

The Executive team is offering its assistance to those RDAs who have not reached agreement. We are aware that management have, at RDA level, requested further meetings during the course of this week and RDAs are strongly urged to take this up. Whether management is intent on reaching agreement or setting the ground for breakdown is irrelevant. The issue is to find a means of reaching agreement on attendance arrangements that balance demand and resource. The alternative is to have a dispute on an Openreach proposition which in its nature will have a far wider-ranging impact upon members.