Five more strike days announced in Openreach

Telecoms & Financial Services, Openreach

Wednesday 3rd March 2021

A further five days of strike action have been announced in Openreach amid mounting workforce exasperation at the refusal of bosses to engage with the union over the legitimate concerns of repayment project engineers (RPEs) about the imposed re-grading of their role.

Today (Wednesday) the small but fiercely loyal group of CWU members are commencing their second previously announced stint of industrial action, with three consecutive strike days that will run until midnight on Friday following on from the two consecutive days of action they took on Wednesday and Thursday last week.

Initial hopes that the first industrial action anywhere in BT Group since 1999 would jolt Openreach bosses out of their complacent disregard for RPEs’ cast-iron conviction that the re-grading of the role is misguided and dangerous were dashed on Friday with a bizarre message of “thanks” from the company for “a peaceful period of industrial action”.

Issued  by bosses in the wake of an impressive show of solitarily for the brave stand being made by RPEs from across the CWU and wider labour movement  the previous night (see story here), the curious communication not only attempted to cast doubt on the numbers taking part in the action – ignoring the fact that the CWU had advised individuals not to change their rostered days off or to cancel booked annual leave– but also to perpetuate the falsehood that management’s  “door remains open”  for talks.

The truth of the matter is that the CWU has repeatedly offered its availability 24/7 for meaningful talks with management – over evenings and weekends if necessary. Sadly, however, the last two times the company has deemed to meet the union was on day five of a five-day window of opportunity provided by the CWU before the announcement of  last week’s industrial action on February 10, and then just after notice was served for this week’s second bout of industrial action a fortnight ago.

On both occasions the company merely reiterated the well-worn line that, while the RPEs’ strength of feeling was understood, their concerns were ‘misplaced’ and that the company has no intention of changing tack!

Davie Bowman

“The reality is that at this point in time the company seems unwilling to reconsider its position on the issue – and it’s fair to say that Friday’s message from management has been met with derision by our members,” explains CWU national officer for Openreach, Davie Bowman.

“In the absence of any serious response from Openreach to discuss these issues with a view to reaching a negotiated settlement we yesterday (Tuesday) served notice for a further five days of all-out industrial action – over and above the three scheduled strike days this week and the two that took place last week.

“These strike days will take place between 00:01 on Thursday March 18 and 23:59 on Friday March 19, and then a further three days between 00.01 on Monday March 22  and 23.59 on Wednesday March 24 – bringing the total number of strike days announced to date to 10.

“Once again we’ve reiterated our willingness to meet at any time in order to seek to reach a negotiated settlement,” Davie concludes.

Video message from Davie Bowman: