Pre-Christmas betrayal of O2 store staff

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CWU negotiators have taken the unusual step of issuing an open letter condemning O2's shock decision to embark on a major cost-cutting plan which will see 82 of its 450 stores put out to franchise.

The bombshell, which was announced to horrified retail division employees on October 30, will result in 412 retail assistants in CWU-represented grades being 'sold' into an uncertain future with only limited protections under TUPE legislation.

News of the initiative, weirdly branded 'Project Thelma' by O2 bosses, prompted the union to immediately point out the perversity of the company plunging its front-line sales force into panic about their own futures at the retail business' busiest time of year.

Despite urgent CWU appeals to O2 to reconsider the wisdom of a strategy which is certain to demotivate the very staff on which the company is relying to rebuild its dented market share, advertisements for would-be franchisees were issued just hours later.

Sally Bridge
Assistant secretary Sally Bridge said: "The CWU is bitterly disappointed at the entire direction the company is taking on this issue. That's not simply because we think franchising on this scale carries huge risks - for the company as well as staff - but because we've been left under no illusion whatsoever that O2 is going to drive this through whatever we say."

With a timetable already established for the franchising process - and probable multiple TUPE transfers of staff to new employers - to be completed by the end of March, the CWU is now focusing on the complex task of ensuring that legal protections for transferring staff are properly adhered to.

"We'll work hard to ensure that both O2 and its new franchisees meet all their obligations under TUPE legislation - but even though transferring staff members have their immediate employment protected under law, there are still lots of unknowns," Sally explains.

"Unanswered questions include the longer-term job security of those being transferred out of O2 - and issues such as what happens with regards to pensions, pay review dates and ongoing terms and conditions, to name just a few.

"However you look at it, this is a very destabilising development for sales staff as they enter into their busiest time of year - a time when they will be expected to pull out all the stops for O2 when the company is simultaneously in the process of dispensing with them."

Andy Kerr
CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr concludes: "This franchising move will destabilise the whole retail network of 450 shops, not just the 82 affected by this particular announcement.

"Staff will be wondering whether they have a job and what their future holds as they enter the busy pre-Christmas shopping period."

Read the CWU's open letter to Fiona Keenan, O2 Employee Relations Business Partner

For more information read the union's initial reaction to the news on 30th October 2012: O2 franchise plans a shock to staff.

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