CWU wins grading boost for BT Openreach Polers

Telecoms & Financial Services, Openreach

Union negotiates higher rate for Gang Leads in successful role-sizing process…

Some 125 Openreach engineers who lead hard-working teams of telegraph pole installers around the UK will see their base pay rates set at a minimum £33,500 thanks to the persistent and determined efforts of CWU negotiators. The agreed rate, which will be enhanced by a bonus scheme with an ‘on-target’ rate of 10 per cent, is at the company’s TMNE3 grade, which is significantly higher than the TMNE2 rate base pay of £31,911 that the business first set out when the talks began.

CWU acting assistant secretary Fiona Curtis, who led the negotiations on behalf of the union, told CWU News today: “We’re very pleased at this outcome, which we feel properly recognises the superb work our poling gang members do. Like our other field engineers, they are out in all weathers all over the country installing new poles or replacing damaged ones and keeping our customers connected.

“It’s great news for what will be our 125 poling gang leads, but it’s also a positive step forward in setting out a positive career pathway for the nearly 400 engineers working in our poling crews. And it will create a real incentive for other engineers to come over into this part of the operation as and when new vacancies arise,” she continued.

“We’re also pleased that, due to the union’s representations to the business – based on the overwhelming view of our members out in the field, their feedback and their collective determination to achieve a fair deal – that the business has agreed to this grading. It’s the opinion of the negotiating team that this outcome, as well as being in the interests of our members, is also in the interests of the company and our customers as well.”

Fiona and her CWU Openreach National Team have been working hard at resolving this grading issue for nearly two years and in the meantime, the demand for new poling has increased in line with the expansion and modernisation of the UK’s communications network. Far from being an ‘old-fashioned’ piece of infrastructure, the high poles are, in many locations, the only way that connectivity can be established and maintained. And the company’s poling crews are essential to this.

As well as the extra capacity this provides to Openreach, there is also extra potential revenue for the company from allowing other companies to use the poles, although they are obliged to ensure that they use them responsibly and in strict accordance with safety and operational protocols.