Agency betrayal in Alness

Telecoms & Financial Services

The CWU has expressed its shock and dismay at news that ten long-serving Manpower employees based at BT’s Alness call centre have been served with ‘end of assignment’ notices – triggering a possible redundancy situation

The announcement, made to members on the BT Business Switch Order Management team at the Scottish Highlands site on Tuesday, prompted outrage and upset in equal measure across the tight-knit workforce.

Coming in the wake of a high-profile victory in the CWU’s ‘Close the Gap’ campaign against unequal pay for agency workers, and the mass rollout of permanent BT contracts to loyal agency employees across much of BT Group, staff were shell-shocked at the development which left some very upset.

Directly employed BT Business staff on the Switch Order Management team at Alness – whose work is being relocated to Brentwood in Essex under a ‘strategic review’ conducted by BT – are to be redeployed on to different workstreams.

The future employment prospects of the ten agency employees impacted, however, are reliant on Manpower finding alternative assignments before their work is transferred to Brentwood on February 1 next year.

If Manpower cannot identify work prior to that date – an outcome that is sadly probable, unless alternative BT work can be found, given Alness’s remote geographical location where comparable jobs are scarce – the loyal agency workers will have no option but to seek redundancy compensation payments.

Assistant secretary Sally Bridge,  lead officer for union’s Manpower membership, said: “This is clearly a very serious situation for all the Scotland No.1 branch members affected – and the outrageousness of how they are being treated is underlined by the fact that, between them, they’ve put in the best part of 80  years of loyal service to BT.

“Eight of the ten are on Agency Worker Regulations (AWR)  equal pay contracts and five in particular have worked continuously for BT on agency contracts for the best part of 10 years as a minimum. One of those served an end of assignment notice has put in no less than 17 years of service!

“Just two of the ten are on the more recent PBA (Pay Between Assignment) contracts that BT Group has pledged to phase out by the end of the financial year – and even the shortest-serving member affected has put in two years service.

“These are all highly experienced individuals who deserve better from BT which, by its actions, doesn’t seem to have spotted the irony in the fact that two of those who are now fearful for their jobs have been classed as within the top 1 per cent of performers – with one previously having been invited to a special recognition event at BT Tower!

“Frankly the treatment of the entire group is shoddy in the extreme – and needless to say the CWU will be making every possible representation on their behalf.”

National officer for BT Business Allan Eldred agrees the treatment of the group is “outrageous”, and has already written to management urging them to “reflect what management decisions can mean to individuals.”

His letter continued: There are at least 2 people currently on agency contracts in this role that declined a permanent BT contract because of management’s unprecedented decision not to take account of their equal pay status. This was in contradiction to previously given assurance that AWR agency staff would not lose money when recruited onto BT contracts. No other BT line of business has acted in this way. These people should be offered BT contracts now on equal pay, in addition to one of the roles in the EITS unit.”

Allan concludes: “It is outrageous the way these people have been treated. When somebody has been in a role for 17 years, that role is clearly permanent and they, along with their colleagues, should have been offered BT contracts many years ago.”