CWU ‘Period Poverty’ campaign victory now complete in BT and EE

Telecoms & Financial Services

Workplace access to free sanitary products is finally in the process of becoming universal across BT Group with the belated rollout of the CWU-inspired‘We’ve all been there’ initiative to female engineers via the company’s stores hubs.

While sustained CWU lobbying secured the provision of free sanitary products in the office/ contact centre environment way back in March, it has taken until now for the more complex logistics of distribution to field engineers and other female employees who spend all or most of their time on the road, to be full worked out.

Starting last  week, however, deliveries of sanitary supplies got underway to no fewer than 43 collection sites across the country – full details of which are provided here.

Predominantly benefitting female Openreach engineers who routinely visit stores hubs to collect the equipment they need to do their jobs, all that will be required is a request at the front desk for a ‘We’ve all been there’ pack and the provision of a signature and UIN number.

The aim is that the discreet packs – which contain a range of sanitary products – are then stored in vans, meaning they are always on hand when required.

CWU assistant secretary Dave Jukes, the unions national officer with responsibility for personnel, equality and health & safety issues in BT said: “While it’s certainly taken longer than we’d have liked to have reached this point, I’m pleased to say that, on this issue, BT has worked constructively with the union to extend the provision of sanitary products from company washrooms to female employees in the field.

“The extension of the ‘We’ve all been there’ scheme to stores hubs is an important moment for the union’s Period Poverty campaign. It also represents a significant victory for the grassroots CWU activists who played such a key role in raising awareness about a glaring omission in welfare provision for female employees that, until recently, most private sector organisations have chosen to ignore.”

Pressure on BT to adopt measures that had hitherto been largely associated the public and not-for-profit sector really came to the fore following a high profile debate at CWU Annual Conference in May 2019.

Proposing the motion, Mel Gorrie of Scotland No.1 explained: “Originally schools in Scotland brought this in; that then extended to churches, football stadiums and a number of other places – including CWU head office – but not yet BT.

“Come on BT,” she stressed: “Set yourself apart from the average employer and go above and beyond for your female members of staff.”

That theme was amplified by Executive speaker Tracey Fussey, who insisted: “These are not luxury products, they’re a necessity – just the same as access to toilet paper, which I’m sure we all agree is kind of expected!”

Unanimous support for the proposal by Telecoms & Financial Services delegates provided the impetus needed to secure BT’s agreement to a trial last Autumn – culminating in the office-based launch of the ‘We’ve all been there’ initiative in March.

Last week’s commencement of the field-based rollout puts in place the final part of the jigsaw.

Dave concludes: “This is a timely reminder of what a constructive dialogue between management and the collective voice employees can achieve.”