Major new agreement on 999 call handlers’ attendance patterns out to ballot

Call Centres, Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Members across BT Business Voice Services are voting on a major shake-up of attendance patterns that the union believes offer significant benefits over the arrangements that are currently in place.

Placed before members in an e-ballot which commenced on Wednesday, the comprehensive menu of attendances contained in the new Attendance Collective Agreement go a long way to address long-standing CWU concerns over inadequate advance visibility of attendances across Voice Services.

The consultative poll follows the company’s confirmation at the start of this week that, following a division-wide preference exercise, almost 98% of advisors are in line to receive their first choice of attendance pattern immediately – with the rest placed on a waiting list to transfer to their preferred option at the earliest possible opportunity.

Crucially, the portfolio of attendances set out in the CWU-brokered agreement see the variation in start times greatly reduced and significantly restricted – and much improved visibility of what pattern of duties individuals will be working for the foreseeable future.

Significantly, the Through-Night extension to 08:00, which management had proposed to be throughout the duty cycle, will now only be for one week out of six – thereby addressing a major point of contention.

“In my view this is a good agreement which results in genuine improvements for the vast majority of our Voice Services membership,” stresses CWU national officer Allan Eldred.

“Above everything it provides for hugely improved visibility on future working patterns to the extent that individuals will be able to see when they are scheduled to work this time next year – and for many it also results in significant improvements with regards to the bunching of days off,” he continues.

“We already know that nearly 98% of people have got the shift pattern that they opted for in the preference exercise – and management cannot now alter their scheduled shift without the specific agreement of individuals. That’s because any movement from the scheduled duty cycles within the attendance portfolio, or any incursion into a preceding or later cycle, will be entirely voluntary for agents.”

Other safeguards secured for members by the CWU negotiating team include commitments by Voice Services management that:

  • Sunday, Bank Holiday and night attendance remuneration arrangements will remain unchanged
  • Existing ECOH (exceptional change of hours) arrangements will be honoured unless a new pattern has been allocated which relinquishes the need for it
  • Any pre-booked annual leave will be honoured
  • BT Group arrangements covering the loss of attendance-related payments (CLARPS) will apply
  • Car sharers and people with shared caring responsibilities will be allocated duties that enable this to continue.

Urging members across Voice Services – who conduct essential public service work ranging from 999 calls to Text Relay, as well as other services – to ratify the agreement, Allan concludes: “During the course of protracted negotiations the CWU negotiating team managed to maximise the number of patterns that provide two consecutive days off – and secure the company’s commitment that there will be at least one full weekend off within a shift pattern rotation.

“We also ensured that consecutive attendances will not exceed 5 attendances in a row, and that, on part-time shifts of less than 30 hours, every effort will be made to maximise the number of three-day attendances within the agreed portfolio.

“Importantly, Voice Services has additionally committed that it will continue to seek to cover all Bank Holiday duties by volunteers.

“As such, I hope that our members across Voice Services overwhelmingly support the Collective Agreement on attendances that is now before them.”

  • All impacted members in Voice Services will by now have received e-ballot voting forms in their BT inbox, and have until noon on Monday August 7 to cast their vote. The result will be announced later that day.