CWU considers the options as Rivus members grasp magnitude of garage closure bombshell

Telecoms & Financial Services, Rivus

Members at Rivus Fleet Solutions are reeling from the shock announcement that over 85% of the company’s 56 strong garage network has been earmarked for closure once the company’s service and maintenance contract for BT and Openreach vehicles expires on September 29.

Leaving around 650 CWU represented grade employees at the 48 threatened garages grappling to process what the devastating news could potentially mean for their jobs, Monday’s devastating announcement by Rivus comes in the wake of BT’s appointment of a new Fleet services provider called Holman Fleet Services – which bizarrely has no garage network of its own.

Under TUPE law, given that BT Group fleet services work (including vehicle service, maintenance and repair) still exists, and is simply transferring to another service provider, any Rivus employees working on the BT/Openreach contract are covered by TUPE protections. These mean responsibility for their employment shifts to the new employer, along with their work.

The complexity of the extraordinary situation BT has engineered in this instance, however, rests on the fact that Holman has no work locations of its own – with it planning instead to farm out the BT contract work to a plethora of garages with which it has relationships.

CWU national officer Allan Eldred told CWU News: “An urgent meeting with Holman at senior level has already been sought and our aim will be to ensure that they fulfil their legal obligations to our members under TUPE legislation.

“Members can rest assured that the CWU will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to ensure that not just Holman – but Rivus and BT as well – fulfil their legal obligations to CWU members in the face of these alarming developments.”

An outsourcing car crash…

Monday’s closure announcement covering 48 of Rivus’s 56 garages follows the company’s failure to secure sufficient alternative work to fill the capacity freed by the lost BT contract in time to sustain the business at its current scale.

Rivus was effectively a start-up company when it purchased BT Fleet and is owned by a Venture capitalist company called Aurelius. The BT contract accounts for   around 70% of Rivus’s current workload – and to date, no new major contracts have been signed.

“The union is shocked at the failure of Rivus to cement alternative work in the required timescales, and even more so by the scale of the announcement that they have made,” stresses Allan. “In essence, this announcement is a result of the inability of Rivus to continue to operate until replacement work arrives.

Commenting on Rivus’s claims that high labour and legacy costs resulting from the aging BT Estate and systems which they inherited were key parts of the problem, Allan adds: “We have to question why action wasn’t taken earlier to reduce system costs and rectify the costs of an aging estate.

“However, BT shoulders the moral responsibility for the loyal BT Fleet employees it unceremoniously outsourced in 2019 – and I hope that, in association with Holman and Rivus, solutions are found that ensure our members aren’t left as victims of further cost-cutting activities from BT.”

  • An emergency online branch forum for branches with Rivus members will be held tomorrow (Friday), to discuss the fast unfolding situation and the ways in which members can best be supported.