Virgin Media steals union recognition
22nd November 2012
The Communication Workers Union today (Thursday) accuses
Virgin Media of "stealing" trade union recognition from
its staff following the company's result of a referendum on
Despite the company giving CWU less than a week's notice on
the referendum, and bombarding staff with company messages urging
them to vote for derecognition, the supposed result was a very slim
52% to 48% in favour of the company's position.
Virgin Media has now torn up the jointly held recognition
agreements and disregarded the three-month notice period written in
them. The company prevented CWU Virgin Media reps from attending a
longstanding pre-scheduled meeting which was due to take place
today, an aggressive move which effectively ends union recognition
with immediate effect.
Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary,
said: "Today is a poor day for democracy. We're bitterly
disappointed in the way that Virgin Media has conducted this flawed
referendum on a basic human right for trade union recognition at
"Despite the pressure and access which Virgin Media used to
influence this referendum the supposed result is very poor for the
company's position and an incredibly weak mandate for severing
"Virgin Media has stolen union recognition from its staff.
Even with the unlevel playing field they used to run this
referendum they didn't manage to get a ringing endorsement for
their position. There's been no independent scrutiny of the
result and a general lack of transparency. We're still at a
loss as to why the company made this decision and are concerned
about what it may mean for Virgin media staff.
"Our message to Virgin Media, its staff and our members is
clear. CWU isn't going anywhere. We will continue to build our
membership and represent the views and interests of Virgin Media
staff with a genuinely independent voice. We hope the company
changes its position and comes to see the value of partnership with
an independent trade union and moves away from its union busting
Virgin Media staff have told CWU that they were called to
compulsory briefings led by company directors in which they put the
company's position on union recognition and urged people to
vote for derecognition. Staff have also told CWU that some people
were called up at home by managers asking them to vote yes because
they had not already voted. This calls into question the
independence of the referendum as many staff were concerned that
managers knew who had voted and who hadn't, with some
questioning whether they also knew which way people had voted.
CWU believes the referendum held by Virgin Media is flawed for several reasons:
- The company included staff outside of the areas covered by union recognition agreements, making the voting pool bigger than those who were directly affected.
- The company gave less than a week's notice to CWU from the start date of the referendum, giving the union little time to respond to the situation (CWU notified on the afternoon of Friday 2nd November with the referendum opening on Wednesday 7th and apparently running until Friday 16th November).
- The company had already prepared its communications to staff before informing CWU of its intention to hold the referendum (letter to Virgin Media engineers arrived at their homes on Saturday 3rd November meaning they were already in the post before the company spoke to CWU).
- Virgin Media had direct access to staff which it used
extensively to push its own propaganda about why the company wanted
staff to vote for derecognising trade unions. By contrast, CWU was
permitted one short statement on the company's intranet which
many staff said was difficult to find. No other direct access was
allowed by the company.
CWU had recognition for parts of the Virgin Media engineering workforce. There have been no disputes in the history of that recognition partnership, no strikes and no breakdown in relations which would have led to industrial action.
CWUTV interviews assistant secretary John East who explains the situation pre-referendum:
If you work for Virgin Media and would like to join the CWU simply give us a call on freephone 0800 731 7434 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.