Openreach ‘Patch Lead’ talks continue as ‘Leadership Readiness’ events commence

Telecoms & Financial Services

Urgent negotiations are continuing with Openreach with view to agreeing the pay and grading for the new Patch Lead roles that are being rolled out.

Key to the formal assessment of these grades is ensuring that everyone is clear on the job description of this role – what is expected of a Patch Lead, but, just as importantly, what the role is not. Much joint CWU / Openreach work, consultation and communication, has gone into determining that there are clear demarcations between a Patch Manager and a Patch Lead’s responsibilities.

In support of this, special two-day ‘Leadership Readiness’ events are being organised across the length and breadth of the country. For the CWU, the key focus of these events – one of which will take place in every Senior Area Manager (SAM) patch – is to make sure that this clear demarcation message lands consistently.

The CWU Openreach National Team intends to have a presence at every single event. Apart from allowing the union to ensure that no inconsistencies are arising, this will provide a valuable opportunity for face-to-face engagement with all of our recently appointed Patch Lead members.

The events kicked off on 14th / 15th August, with two Wessex patch events taking place in Exeter and Southampton (attended by CWU Openreach NT members, Phil Thomas and Garry Woodman respectively). The third one, for the Wessex New Recruits patch, was held in Yeovil, over the 21st/22ndAugust, with Julia Upton attending from the CWU Openreach National Team.

Reporting back after the event, Julia (pictured with 3 of the new Patch Leads present) admitted she’d been highly impressed by the “positive, open, unfiltered engagement, including when highlighting areas of concern or uncertainty around the expectations of the role.”

She added: “I gained so much from being there and participating over the two days. We cannot overstate how important it is that there is no dubiety about the Patch Lead role and the distinct differences from that of a Patch Manager. The Patch Lead is a Team Member grade and needs to build and maintain a supportive, coaching relationship with their fellow team members.

“The obvious benefits of introducing this interim grade – above a Senior Engineer, but below a manager – is to provide strong, hands-on and technically supportive coaching, delivered with true affinity for their team and fellow engineers.

“If any responsibility drift becomes apparent, with the Patch Leads being perceived in any way as ‘pseudo managers’, then those main benefits will be immediately lost.

“Encouragingly, the message conveyed at all the events to date could not have been clearer on this point”.

Stressing it had been “particularly interesting to hear the views being expressed by those working within the New Recruits teams,” Julia has committed to feeding their specific issues in to the wider national discussions.

“Patch Leads are clearly going to be a crucial element of the CWU’s Openreach membership going forward and will, undoubtedly, be an invaluable source of feedback and engagement, she insisted.

“It’s still early days for us in understanding how this role will evolve into business as usual – but, with the planned rollout of Openreach ‘Leadership Readiness’ events within each SAM patch around the country, it’s highly positive that the union’s National Team will have had the opportunity to directly engage with almost every Patch Lead over the next couple of months.

  • As members in Openreach Field Network Delivery (FND) will be aware, the organisational restructure within FND is currently on hold – meaning that joint discussions with regards to FND Patch Lead recruitment have necessarily been delayed. The CWU is optimistic, however, that, at the appropriate point in time, the communication and engagement arrangements successfully deployed in Service Delivery will be replicated.