CWU patience snaps on Connect 44 pay outrage

Telecoms & Financial Services, Telefonica UK

Members in Connect 44 who haven’t received a pay rise since 2017 are being treated with total disregard and contempt by their bosses  – but also deserve better from their erst while employer, Telefónica, whose systems they still service on an outsourced basis.

That’s the blunt message that has been delivered to both companies by the CWU following three years of stonewalling by Connect 44 every time the CWU has attempted to raise the fact that static wage levels effectively represent annual pay cuts as the cost of living rises.

The 19 engineers in question were TUPE transferred from Telefónica to Huawei in 2012, but subsequently re-TUPEd from Huawei to Connect 44 in 2017.

Pay negotiations had always been protracted and difficult with Huawei – but at least the Chinese mobile company was prepared to engage with the CWU, and cost of living rises were eventually secured – albeit not always matching Telefónica increases –  during  the Huawei years.

The last CWU negotiated pay settlement of 2.35% was paid out to the small but intently loyal group of members in October 2017 after the union dug in its heels during the TUPE matrix discussions just prior to their transfer to Connect 44.

That deal was, in itself, seven months late and not backdated,  despite intense lobbying by the CWU as to why it should be. Initially, however, a change of the annual pay review date from April to January pay  as part of Connect 44’s TUPE ‘measures’ appeared to open the possibility of new discussions being opened within months of the transfer.

Post-TUPE, however, Connect 44 abruptly rebuffed the CWU’s efforts to start talks – citing the October 2017 pay rise – and since then has refused to even engage with the CWU every time the issue of pay has been raised.

“The net result is that our Connect 44 members didn’t receive a pay rise in 2018, 2019 – and now, three months into 2020, the company won’t respond to CWU’s legitimate requests for talks surrounding our members’ contractual entitlement to a January 1 pay review date,” explains CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge.

“This is therefore the third year in which we’ve approached successive Connect 44 HR managers who appear to come and go like a revolving door – and we’ve also escalated matters right up to director level with no joy whatsoever – indeed generally without even the courtesy of a reply.

“Basically we’re getting ignored or batted-back whichever way we turn – and understandably our members are frustrated, angry and reaching the end of their tether.

“As such the CWU national team has now decided the union has no option but to escalate the issue to Telefónica. After all, the plight of our Connect 44 members goes to the heart of the moral responsibility major employers have for loyal employees that they outsource to other businesses – especially where those employees are still carrying out functions for the exclusive benefit of their erstwhile employer.

“Telefónica can’t morally just offload this work and these people and have absolutely no responsibility – so while it is ultimately Connect 44, not Telefónica, that has been behaving outrageously, we’ve now escalated the issue to Telefónica chief operating officer Derek McManus asking him to intercede”.

In her letter to Mr McManus, which was sent on Tuesday March 3, Sally points out that “our members still undertake exactly the same work as they did when they were Telefónica employees in 2012.”

Lambasting Connect 44’s refusal to “even discuss pay” since they took over the Telefónica contract from Huawei in 2017, Sally concludes: “This is a completely unsatisfactory situation, particularly as the employees concerned have no understanding, rationale or communication from their employer on this matter.

“As Telefónica is the client, and has a commercial relationship with Connect 44, I wanted to bring this to your attention.”

The CWU, which has a long-standing relationship with Telefónica, is now awaiting a formal response.