Openreach challenged on FND National Infrastructure bombshell


The CWU has responded furiously to a vicious double whammy that has just been dropped on desk-based members in Openreach’s Fibre Network Delivery’s  (FND) National Infrastructure division

Following on from last week’s management announcement of unagreed and potentially devastating changes to not just grading but also the future location of desk-based work, a voluntary paid leaver scheme has now opened up in yet another snub to  longstanding agreements with the CWU.

Despite urgent CWU calls for a face-to-face meeting with the company in advance of the proposals being briefed to staff, management pressed ahead with the announcement after just a couple of conference calls with the union in which CWU Openreach national team members expressed their horror at the proposals and the union’s conviction that time-honoured IR protocols are being breached in multiple areas.

“The enormity of the threat contained within the company’s communication to staff should not be underestimated.”, stresses CWU national officer for Openreach Davie Bowman.

“It’s hard to understand what the company thinks it’s achieving by acting in such a cavalier and inflammatory way – because the outpouring of anger we’re seeing amongst loyal longstanding employees was entirely predictable given the fact they understandably feel they are being treated with complete and utter contempt.

“Effectively hundreds of predominantly C3 graded desk-based employees across the FND National Infrastructure operation have been told that the business does not believe that they are worth anything like what they are currently being paid – without the company even bothering to recognise that there are agreed procedures that have to be followed when proposing changes to roles and grading under the time-honoured NewGRID grading agreement,.

“Arguably even worse, around two thirds of those involved have been left in severe doubt as to the long-term future of their current roles on account of the bombshell that all desk-based roles in National Infrastructure will ultimately be based in just three locations – Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow.”

Astonishingly, under the heading of  ‘What this means for you’ in a communication to affected employees outlining the launch of an associated paid leaver scheme, National Infrastructure director Elena Karpathakis simply said: “I want to reassure you that for the moment there is no impact for anyone who is not working in one of these National Infrastructure locations today.”

Pointing out the scant comfort of those wordsespecially when read in conjunction with a separate statement by a senior HR manager that “due to a mixture of years of automation and legacy use of C3 grades, many of our roles are simpler and do not now require C3 level  skills,” Davie’s assessment of the threat posed by the company’s current position is unequivocal.

“This is a significant change from the company and a dangerous move away from time-honoured principles over how grading and location issues should be dealt with,” he cautions.

“My concern is that Openreach is setting out its wider intentions for the future of desk-based work across the company – and the picture that is unfolding is an ugly one. Members have very good reason to be both angry and fearful.”

Davie stresses that the company’s current ‘cavalier’ approach to longstanding IR protocols has also been underlined by misinformation put out by some managers that desk-based workers outside of Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow who decide to apply for field-based co-ord roles will be required to switch to Workforce 2020 contracts.

Lambasting the company’s decision to open a voluntary release scheme before entering into meaningful dialogue with the CWU over the rationale of the exercise and the numbers of people who are potentially to be deemed ‘surplus’, Davie concludes: “In these situations our agreements are quite clear that one of the first areas that should be explored is the repatriation of work from offshore.

“At the end of the day, Openreach is a UK-based company building a UK fibre network, and they should be employing UK people in that endeavor – especially at a time when they are seeking billions of pounds of public investment.

“The CWU has continually asked for the volumes and types of work which is carried out offshore, with a view to that work being repatriated and therefore avoiding the need for a release scheme or displacement of desk-based roles.

“To date no information has been received by the CWU which, in the view of the national team, is yet another major breach of a national agreement with the CWU.”