Union vows to support beleaguered Rivus members


Two weeks after the devastating announcement that 48 of Rivus Fleet Solutions’ 56 garages will close once the company’s service and maintenance contract for BT and Openreach vehicles expires on September 29, well over 600 individuals are desperate for answers about their immediate employment future.

Yesterday (Tuesday) evening those questions came fast and furious at a special online mass meeting of the CWU’s beleaguered Rivus membership – but, extraordinarily, concrete answers are still in short supply for a workforce that remains unclear as to whether they will still have jobs in just over two months time.

Attended by virtually half of the union’s entire Rivus membership – a participation rate that far exceeds normal attendance levels for such meetings – the scale of membership anxiety over what the coming weeks have in store was plain for all to see.

While CWU national officer Allan Eldred did his utmost to field a plethora of highly pertinent questions thrown up by the yawning information gap over how normal TUPE and redundancy arrangements will apply in a highly unusual transfer of undertakings, the truth is that the union is itself urgently demanding clarity on just those issues.

Much of the confusion stems from BT’s appointment of a new Fleet services provider called Holman Fleet Services which, bizarrely, has no garage network of its own – raising profound questions both for the Rivus workforce and the quality of service they will be able to provide to BT.

Given that BT Group fleet services work (including vehicle service, maintenance and repair) still exists, and is simply transferring to another service provider, any Rivus employees working on the BT/Openreach contract are undisputedly covered by TUPE protections. These mean responsibility for their employment shifts to the new employer, along with their work.

Much of the uncertainty of the extraordinary complex situation BT has engineered in this instance, however, rests on the fact that Holman plans to farm out the BT contract work to a plethora of garages with which it has relationships.

What is certain, from the union’s perspective, however, is that TUPE certainly applies – and there is no evidence to suggest Holman will not fulfil their legal obligations.

“There’s no question in my mind that Holman are aware of what those legal obligations are,” Allan insisted. And asked directly by one member as to whether “the worst that can happen to us is TUPE or redundancy – whether it is Rivus or Holman making us redundant?” Allan’s answer was a categorical ‘YES’.

In an emotional aside, however, Allan stressed he was well aware that would be cold comfort for the vast majority of members who, above everything, crave security of employment in economically uncertain times.

“In situations like this I look at those people with young families and mortgages and other commitments and I get angry,” he insisted. “Bloody angry that we live in a world where entire families can be placed in turmoil through no fault of their own on account of contractual decisions by commercial entities that are taken with zero regard what those decisions mean to working people.

“You are all going through an incredibly difficult period and the union is intensely aware of that,” he continued. “We have considerable experience of dealing with TUPE and of dealing with redundancies as well  – and you can rest assured the CWU will be doing absolutely everything it can to protect members’ interests in this highly regrettable situation.”

Concluding the meeting, TFE Executive member Kate Walsh – who chairs the Rivus national team – thanked attendees for their pertinent questions, stressing: “Sadly we don’t have all the answers at this point in time, but hopefully over the next few weeks things will start to become clearer – and rest assured we will relay that information to members as soon as we have it.

“Above everything please remember we are here to support you throughout this difficult time.”