Devil’s in the detail of Our Hours robbery!

Telecoms & Financial Services

Mounting evidence of the extent to which an ever-growing percentage of Openreach field service engineers are being forced to give hours of their time for free every week has prompted the union to issue urgent advice on ways to minimise the loss.

Frustration at discrepancies in contracts that see some employees compensated for their travelling time, but others forced to work for up to ten hours a week for nothing has been building since September 2012, when the business put new recruits outside the existing Parking at Home policy, with no agreed commute time.

But, since the launch of the union’s Our Hours campaign, the scale of the problem has been brought into sharp focus – with many recognising for the first time the true extent to which they are being disadvantaged by a toxic combination of Personal Travel Time (PTT) and abuses of the Flex system by some managers.

While PTT applies only to those employed after September 2012, the Flex system operates across Openreach Service delivery – and for some time anger has been growing at the haphazard way in which Flex is recorded – or often not recorded at all – seemingly always to the detriment of employees and the benefit of the company,

Branded as nothing less than ‘corrupt’ by CWU Annual Conference – with one delegate characterising abuses of the Flex system as “the wholesale nicking of time off our members” – it’s becoming increasingly apparent that those most disadvantaged are nearly always those who are also contractually required to give up to 60 minute travelling time at the beginning and end of the working day.

National officer for Openreach Davie Bowman explains: “Because some managers outrageously seem to see these members as being required to give an extra 60 minutes at each end of the day, we’re seeing situations where timesheets are being amended, pushing back into what was undisputedly work time.

“As such, the already deeply unfair requirement for those employed post-September 2012 to give substantial amounts of travelling time to the company for free is being further compounded by the loss of Flex as a result of their timesheets being tampered with.

“Just as unacceptable, it’s also clear that, whereas the job allocation system generally gives those on pre-PTT contracts a final job of the day that gets them as close as possible to home – obviously to minimise positive flex or overtime – those on the post-September 2012 contracts are automatically allocated jobs that are further out. This means they are even more likely to have to use their full 60 minutes of PTT.”

Davie stresses: “What’s become very clear, because of the extensive contact many branches have been having with members as a result of the Our Hours petition – is the widespread confusion as to how Flex time can be claimed back and what is and isn’t acceptable about the way that some managers are interpreting PTT.

“Now people are looking more closely at this issue a lot more instances are coming to light where people are spotting mistakes in their Flex record, where there is information missing or where the times simply don’t add up – a pretty sure sign that they are being tampered with.

“As such, today the CWU is issuing detailed advice to members as to how the system should operate – and I’d urge all members to read it very carefully indeed, because if you fully understand how the system should work it becomes much more apparent when you’re being short-changed.”

Davie concludes: Members need to ensure that they book their time correctly and check on at least a weekly basis that their PTT and Flex position is correctly recorded.

“Any anomalies should be raised immediately with not just your manager but also your CWU branch office.”