Deal reached for outsourced BTFS members

From the moment BT dropped the bombshell last November that it had already signed contracts that will result in 1,700 Facilities Services employees transferring to ISS and CBRE on April 1, it was clear time was tight to resolve a raft of serious employee concerns over an outsourcing that the union still believes is wrong in principle.

Few, however, would have predicted just how close increasingly tense talks would go to the wire – with union demands for crucial reassurances in multiple areas only being finally signed off today (Wednesday).

Taken as a whole, a series of last-minute safeguards the CWU has secured from BT, on top of separate hard-negotiated bilateral agreements with ISS and CBRE, mean that next Monday’s TUPE ‘D-Day’ (April 1) will be far less traumatic for those affected than it would otherwise have been.

But CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge insists that the union’s success in securing many of its key negotiating aims has to be viewed in the context of what the CWU believes was an ill-considered outsourcing decision by BT and a subsequent TUPE consultation process that has been “chaotic and badly prepared for by BTFS management” from the outset.

Sally says: “We’ve some important safeguards for over 1,000 housekeepers and security guards and around 500 BTFS engineers in CWU-represented grades who will be transferring to ISS or CBRE respectively next Monday.

“For the CWU this has been one of the most complicated and difficult set of discussions we’ve ever had regarding an outsourcing – and, sadly, BT was never going to reconsider its decision on account of the fact that legally binding contracts had already been signed.

“At the end of the day, however, the litmus test as to whether the CWU has achieved its key goals in a pretty woeful situation is to go back the aims and objectives we set at the very outset of the #ENDGAME campaign – and, judged against those, we’ve made huge strides,” Sally continues.

“Although we were never going to be able to prevent this outsourcing from happening we’ve made our total opposition to it abundantly clear to the business and our members across BT through high profile campaigning – which has, in itself, undoubtedly contributed to our negotiating successes with BT, ISS and CBRE.

“From the outset we made our total opposition to compulsory redundancies  – which hopefully the job security agreements we’ve managed to secure with both ISS and CBRE will help us to avoid.

“Regarding terms and conditions, we’ve achieved our stated aim of maintaining the Real Living Wage for the lowest-paid staff – getting that embedded in commercial contract for the whole of its five-year duration. Meanwhile, the job security agreements we’ve secured with both ISS and CBRE give us the best possible protection we could have achieved for contractual hours – addressing another of our key objectives.”

Sally continues: “Of course the proof will be in the pudding, but the assurances we’ve achieved for members as they transfer out of BTFS go well beyond those set down in TUPE legislation – and the fact that we’ve secured full recognition for collective bargaining purposes in both companies places us in the best possible position to deal with the difficult times we know might lie ahead.

“With both companies having already served notice of their intention to review operating models under the so-called TUPE ‘measures’, members can rest assured the CWU is watching developments closely – closely and that we will intervene robustly, if necessary, to ensure the safeguards we have secured for members are adhered to.

“We’re looking forward to developing a positive working relationship with ISS and CBRE, but also believe that BT needs to take stock of the way this outsourcing was handled from the outset.

“Frankly,” Sally says, “BTFS management was ill-prepared in its approach to this TUPE from the off, never drilling down into the detail of how loyal employees were going to be impacted – and the CWU has already made it clear to BT Group this can never be allowed to happen again.”

Key points of the deal…

  • A compensatory monthly payment of £30 net (£40 gross) for all transferees currently taking advantage of BT’s discounted Broadband/ BTTV employee benefit – lasting for the duration of the five-year contract
  • Comprehensive union recognition agreements with both companies that mirror the collective bargaining rights enjoyed by the union to negotiate on behalf of all those in the respective bargaining units, crucially including new starters. “These collective agreements commit both  companies to meaningfully consult and negotiate with the CWU going forward,” points out Sally “and, in so doing, they put us in the best possible place to deal with any future challenges.” 

Points specific to members transferring to CBRE include…

  •  Up to six months leeway will be given to discuss the relocation of any administrative or non-operational staff based in BT buildings.

Points specific to members transferring to ISS include…

  • The guarantee that housekeepers and security officers will continue to be paid the Real Living Wage for the duration of the contract, with the additional assurance that their pay review date will remain at June for 2019 with an aim post transfer to review the date for 2020.
  • The implementation of a one-off ‘two week’ salary advance facility to help housekeepers cope with a devastating side-effect of the move from monthly to fortnightly pay.
  • A job security agreement with ISS that details the approach it will take to ensure fair and consistent treatment of staff where there are proposals for organisational change that may result in redeployment, change of work locations, reduction in working hours, changes to work practices or redundancies.
  • Following a review by BTFS into the contractual hours worked by security officers that had left many worried that their working hours would be reduced, a statement has been received from ISS that acknowledges working hours and arrangements and these will be honoured post transfer. In other words they do not intend to make any changes to the hours that are currently worked. They have further assured the CWU that holidays will be afforded in line with their entitlements based on the work they do. Further to this and following the transfer, ISS have agreed to  review contracts of employment to ensure they are aligned with people’s working arrangements.
  • For further details, please see LTB 194/19