Think again on ‘dangerous’ downgrading of  pole tester roles, Openreach told

Openreach, Telecoms & Financial Services

The CWU is calling on Openreach to urgently reconsider an apparent ‘dumbing down’ of safety-critical pole tester roles in Fibre Network Delivery.

Despite the fact that pole testing is generally regarded as crucial for the safety of not just the engineers who climb them – but also for nearby residents and the public at large – Openreach today (Thursday) dropped the bombshell that it believes the role should now be graded at TMNE2 from its current C1 banding.

Members of the union’s Openreach National Team (NT) were also shocked to be told that the company also intends cutting back on training with regards to the recruitment of a new influx of pole testers – something the CWU regards as evidence that the company is attempting to deal with current backlogs on the cheap by driving pay and skill levels down.

Assistant secretary Davie Bowman said: “The CWU do not believe, and will not accept, that a role with the safety responsibilities associated with pole testing that potentially impacts the lives of all our members, customers and members of the public should be resourced in this way.

“The NT questioned the company on the detail relating to the training programme, learner pathway, pay levels and any safety risk assessments which have been completed ahead of this decision being taken. Unfortunately the company were unable to answer any of the questions or deal with the very serious concerns the CWU has with regard to this approach. In addition, the NT was unable to ascertain whether any discussions had taken place with those responsible for safety and legal matters within Openreach.”

The CWU is alarmed that the time-honoured and mutually agreed grading assessment process – which includes consideration of skill levels, complexity, impact on company, expertise, proficiency, decision making and many other areas appears to have been comprehensively ignored.

The move also flies in the face of the work that has been done by both the CWU and Openreach to create career pathways within the company that allows people to progress through different roles and extend their experience as well as earning potential by carrying out specialist roles.

“The pole test role is a specialist role and should command the remuneration associated with those crucial responsibilities,” Davie insists.

“The NT intends to pursue this issue within Openreach – and externally if required – with the aim of getting the company to see sense and take the health and safety of its employees, and others, seriously by reversing the decision and filling the roles internally at the C1 grade.

“The irony of the situation is that the title of the meeting we attended was ‘Ensuring a safe future on our network’. Openreach continuing down its current path will not deliver that aim.”

The CWU is urging existing pole testers to ask their line manager why their role has been devalued, and for them to report back the responses they receive to the union’s Openreach NT at