EE ballot over ‘harmonisation of hours’ safeguards demonstrates value of union recognition

Telecoms & Financial Services, EE

Members in EE call centres are being asked to deliver their verdict on a comprehensive series of safeguards negotiated by the CWU following the company’s announcement of its intention to harmonise hours across the EE and BT businesses.

If ratified in a consultative ballot which opens this morning (Monday), the changes will apply to all advisors and team leaders employed before July 2020, and involve the move to unpaid breaks to align with a standard 37.5 hour working week which already applies in BT Consumer.

At present, the contractual working week is 40 hour in EE Consumer and EE Enterprise, with two and a half of those hours comprising paid breaks. In BT Consumer, conversely, break times are unpaid.

The net result of the scrapping of paid breaks in EE is to increase the hourly rate on which overtime is based –  which is clearly beneficial given the significant number of overtime hours worked, especially  given the union’s success in ensuring that that breaks within overtime WILL still be paid.

But, in a bid to ensure that no unintended consequences of the move could result in individuals being disadvantaged, the unions EE National Team has been forensically number-crunching a wide range of scenarios following a trial in Darlington at the end of last year  in which 100 volunteers tested out the impact of breaks being changed from paid to unpaid.   

A number of issues were highlighted – including potentially negative impacts impact of the change on part-timers (stemming from the percentage of part –time hours to full time hours being affected) and concerns that those on Universal or Working Tax Credits could potentially lose out.

All those issues have now been resolved following intensive negotiations (as detailed in EE Members’ Bulletin number 17/2022), with the union securing the additional commitment from management that any further disadvantage relating to pay and Ts&Cs are identified in the next 12 months, the company will correct it.

CWU national officer Stephen Albon explains: “On the basis of all the safeguards secured by the union – combined with the fact that members will actually benefit in terms of their leave entitlement this year, due to less leave being needed to book a day off before April 1 – the EE National Team believes we have addressed all the concerns raised by members to ensure they are not disadvantaged in any way, shape or form.

“As such we’re strongly recommending that members vote to accept the changes in the consultative ballot that is just getting underway.

“The truth is that in the bad old days prior to recognition this type of change would have been imposed by management with scant regard for any negative impacts on the workforce.

Instead, however, the CWU has had had a long detailed and constructive dialogue with management  –  in the process successfully ironing out a raft of detriments that could potentially have occurred –  and I think that speaks volumes about just how far we’ve come in EE since recognition was secured.”

Stressing that members should not confuse changes relating to the harmonisation of hours with wider concerns over pay in general, and particular disquiet over management’s unagreed implementation of an uplift of minimum pay levels in advance of wider talks on this year’s pay round, Stephen concludes:  “It’s important to note that that concerns around pay are not part of the decision in this ballot.

“These are being dealt with in separate negotiations – and we want to assure members that we will continue to update you on progress on that front, and that ultimately you will have your say.”

Members affected  by the ‘harmonisation of hours ‘ changes will receive an email containing a secure link to the ballot today – together with a copy of the agreement, a Q&A and worked examples. The independent ballot will run for one week, closing on Monday February 21.