CWU ‘time bandits’ highlight Our Hours robbery in surprise sting on Wales

Telecoms & Financial Services

The CWU’s high profile Our Hours campaign against the unfair treatment of an ever-growing percentage of Openreach engineers who are forced to work for up to two hours a day for free is entering a slightly surreal new phase this week.

Starting today (Monday), a week-long road tour of Wales and the Marches will see an intrepid band of CWU ‘time bandits’ from the region’s three T&FS branches take the unequivocal message that Openreach’s  ‘great hours robbery’ must stop direct to members.

Hitting the road in style with a specially branded ‘battlebus’ (well, err…van at least!), the tour kicked off at 7am this morning with an early morning ‘raid’ on Carmarthen Telephone Exchange, the heroes of the hour transforming themselves into a motley crew of cartoon-style burglars to amplify the ‘time theft’ message’.

Throughout the week they will remain resolutely in costume as they wend their way from the valleys of South Wales right the way to Snowdon in the north – taking in mid Wales and key locations in English borderlands of the Welsh Marches in between.

At every stage the intention is to engage directly with members on the unfairness of discrepancies in contracts that see some employees compensated for their travelling time, but others forced to work for up to 10 hours a week for nothing.

True to that aim, just before the Tour’s launch every Openreach Service Delivery member in Wales was texted with a request to provide the Tour’s organisers with details of their own ‘stolen hours’ – the intention being to try to reflect the scale of that lost time in the distances travelled by the swag bag-toting (full of watches of course) CWU ‘time bandits’ over the coming days.

Despite the Tour’s tongue-in-cheek edge, Openreach regional co-ordinator for Wales and the Marches, Graham Colk insists the stunt has deadly serious purpose – namely maximizing the number of members signing a CWU petition that is shining a spotlight on the scale of employee frustration that has been building since September 2012 when the business put new recruits outside the existing Parking at Home policy, with no agreed commute time.

Since the launch of the union’s Our Hours campaign this spring the scale of the problem has been brought into even sharper focus – with many recognising for the first time the full extent to which they are being disadvantaged by a toxic combination of Personal Travel Time (PTT)and abuses of the Flex system by some managers. (See ‘Devil’s in detail of Our Hours robbery’ story here)

Many thousands of CWU members have already signed either the paper petition or its online version (click here to sign) – but Graham is adamant that maximum membership participation will be key to persuading Openreach to accept that its current policy amounts to a heist on the work/life balance of predominantly younger employees.

Insisting that, despite their comic-book crook appearance, the Tour’s key protagonists cast themselves more in the role of  Robin Hood than Dick Turpin, Graham explains: “All the union reps involved are taking annual leave to participate – so, pious though it sounds, we’re giving our time to try to get members’ time back!

“That’s not to say we won’t have a great laugh along the way, because we’ll be introducing comedy whenever we can, videoing the highlights as we go along which will be edited into daily updates that will be posted on social media and the CWU website daily.”

An initial video introducing the Tour can be viewed here. Watch out for regular updates at @CWUnews and @CWU_AndyKerr – and blow-by-blow reportage at South Wales Branch’s twitter feed @cwu_southwales  or its Facebook account @cwusouthwales


First leg…

After bidding Carmarthen farewell this morning the Our Hours battlevan and support vehicle will wend its merry way to the Gors Road TEC in Swansea before ending the day at Bridgend TEC. Along the way stop-offs will be made at iconic locations including Kidwelly Castle, Swansea Tower and Ogmore Castle – with the travelling CWU time bandits keeping an eagle eye for Openreach engineers to speak to and any opportunities for mischief-making.

Tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) escapades will start early at Cardiff’s Forest Farm depot, followed by a photoshoot at the nearby Principality Stadium and BT’s adjacent Stadium House. The CWU ‘time bandits’ will then make their way to Newport ATE , followed by two telephone exchanges in Hereford, before ending the day with CWU members at a Mid Wales, the Marches & North Staffs branch meeting in Shrewsbury. Other stop-offs planned for tomorrow include BT’s earth satellite tracking station at Madley, Hereford’s historic ‘Mappa Mundi’ cathedral…and, inexplicably, a tattoo parlour in Newport!

Congratulating the three participating branches (South Wales; Mid Wales the Marches & North Staffs and North Wales & Chester Combined) for their efforts, CWU national officer for Openreach Davie Bowman said: “The amount of work and imagination that has been put into this travellingOur Hours roadshow is impressive. I look forward to watching the video footage – and urge all branch activists with members in Openreach to do the same, because we need to follow up this week’s campaigning in Wales and The Marches with similarly high energy initiatives the length and breadth of the country.

“My message to Openreach is simple: Our members in Service Delivery are consistently telling us that the unfairness associated with PTT is something they are simply not prepared to stomach any longer. As such, if you don’t want to see more of the same sort of campaigning repeated across the country, engage with the CWU now to end this travesty.”

Click here to sign the Our Hours petition