Ballot underway at Connect 44 amid deepening pay crisis at telecommunications service provider

Voting commences today (Wednesday) in a ballot of a small group of CWU members at Connect 44 who have been told they must endure a 0% pay rise in 2022 to help the profitable business fund ‘strategic investment decisions’.

To make matters worse, their January 1 pay review date has come and gone without any indication as to whether they can expect an increase in 2023 either – fuelling concern that the company may be gearing up to try to impose a two-year pay freeze in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

Just before Christmas the CWU issued an eleventh hour plea to bosses to reconsider their position – pointing out that static pay at a time of rampant inflation has already resulted in substantial real-term pay cuts for the tight-knit group  of members who still work exclusively on Virgin Media 02 systems a decade after their initial outsourcing by Telefonica.

Warning that Connect 44 was in danger of placing itself in the ‘2022 Scrooge of the Year’ hall of shame, the union pointed out that the non-existent rise that should technically have been paid out in January 2022 was just the latest smack in the face to have been delivered to staff since Connect 44 took over the contract from Huawei in October 2017.

Previous real-term pay cuts – which were already negatively impacting members’ living standards well before inflation really took off last spring – included an earlier pay freeze in 2019 and a below inflation award in 2021.

Following an unequivocal display of members’ anger in a specially convened online meeting to discuss their situation in December, CWU national officer Tracey Fussey wrote to Connect 44’s UK HR manager announcing the CWU’s intention to hold a consultative ballot on the 0% final ‘offer’ unless the company changed tack.

“As you are aware, the CWU is committed to achieving a pay rise for our members who find your response so far both insulting and unjustifiable,” Tracey told the company.

“Our research into Connect44 does not suggest that this is an issue of affordability – more so a choice in suppressing pay.

“You are imposing one of the biggest pay cuts in real terms –  which, given the challenges the cost of living is bringing to our members, is a situation that is simply untenable.”

Speaking this week, following a further month of complete radio silence from the company, Tracey told CWU News: “We’d hoped that, presented with the strength of our members’ feelings on the issue, Connect44 would reconsider a position that, apart from being completely immoral, is totally out of kilter with the way that most employers are responding to the challenges the cost of living crisis is presenting their staff.

“However, management’s consistent refusal to engage meaningfully with the union to resolve the issue via negotiation means that we now have no choice but to place the company’s 0% final ‘offer’ to members for their acceptance or rejection.

“It’s impossible to overstate the hurt, indignation, anger and complete disbelief that our members in Connect44  are feeling – and I’m confident that will be reflected loud and clear in the consultative ballot.”

Tracey continues: “As things stand this has all the potential to develop into a full-blown dispute – which is something our members dearly want to avoid if possible, but they currently feel their hand is being forced by the complete and utter intransigence of those within the company that the union has been trying to negotiate with.

“Even at this late stage we’re seeking to escalate our concerns to senior management level  – but unless sense prevails the bets are off as to where we are heading.”

  • E-ballot papers were issued at 10am this morning, and the consultative poll will run until 10am on Wednesday January 25, with the result being announced later that day.