Travelling roadshow against Our Hours robbery set to go nationalOpenreach October 24 2019
A touring odyssey in which an intrepid bunch of CWU reps cross-crossed Wales & the Marches in pantomime burglar outfits to illustrate the ‘theft’ of members’ time by Openreach is poised take on a UK-wide dimension as the CWU steps up its high profile Our Hours campaign.
Following the runaway success of last week’s travelling roadshow highlighting the unfair treatment of an ever-growing percentage of Openreach engineers who are forced to work for two hours a day for free, plans are now taking shape for similarly eye-catching activity across the nation.
While the precise nature of activity in different parts of the country will be decided by the CWU’s Openreach regional co-ordinators and participating branches, the union’s national officer for Openreach, Davie Bowman, is adamant that the central unfairness of discrepancies in contracts that see just under half of all engineers compensated for their travelling time, but the rest potentially required to give up to 10 hours a weeks for nothing, will be mercilessly exposed at every opportunity.
Amongst the first to pick up the baton from Wales & The Marches will be the union’s North East branches, which are planning a series of Our Hours campaign events in November.
CWU North East regional co-ordinator for Openreach Viv Heys stresses: “Support for the CWU’s Our Hours campaign by Openreach members both in desk and field is vital. There’s still time to stop Openreach stealing your time!”
Branches across the South West are also gearing up for action – with plans including a membership survey, a ‘postcard’ campaign in which members will be encouraged to tell their manager exactly what they think about Personal Travel Time (PTT) and the distribution of special badges on which individuals can display their weekly travelling time totals. In December the region’s Our Hourscampaigning will take on a seasonal flavour – complete with Christmas Grinch imagery to illustrate the message that time is being stolen, and chocolate coins to represent the lost money that unpaid travel time equates to.
Employee frustration on the Personal Travel Time (PTT) issue has been building since September 2012 when the Openreach put new recruits outside the existing Parking at Home Policy, with no agreed commute time. Massive recruitment since the subsequent introduction of Workforce 2020 contracts in 2014 has meant the percentage of engineers expected to give PTT has risen from a tiny minority to a narrow majority in just five years.
Suspicions have been steadily mounting that some managers now ‘expect’ PTT to be given as a norm – and that some are deliberately allocating work to extract the maximum possible time from individuals with PTT in their contracts.
To date such concerns have centred squarely on Service Delivery (SD) – with those in Fibre Network Delivery (FND) generally spared the expectation of having to give PTT, despite the fact that contracts issued since September 2012 contracts technically include it.
That, however, may be starting to change. Just this week CWU headquarters has been alerted to an instance in the South West where 10 FND members from Bristol were allotted work in Salisbury and expected to give two hours PTT every day. Two of the squad have been told that onerous travel time requirement may last until April – though that is currently being disputed by the CWU.
“The worry must be that, as the requirement to move people to do the Fibre City work steps up, PTT is beginning to have an impact in FND,” warns the union’s national officer for Openreach, Davie Bowman.
“A similar situation previously bubbled within the Chief Engineer’s business unit in Scotland – and, while we managed to nip that in the bud, meaning that those affected are now being appropriately compensated, the danger of PTT creeping in to areas where it is not currently applied is obvious.
“With more and more people having their working week extended by PTT, it’s not rocket science that the company will be tempted to ‘normalise’ this unacceptable situation by trying to extend it to everybody.
“That’s why it’s absolutely essential that CWU members across Openreach stand together on this issue -regardless of whether or not they are currently affected.”
As such Davie stresses that it’s crucial that those in FND, and even members in desk roles who benefit from a clear ‘log-on/log-off’ policy, don’t consider themselves immune from a ‘time theft’ that is currently most prevalent amongst engineers with seven or less years’ service in SD.
“If we can win the argument that PTT is wrong for those to whom it is currently being applied, we’ll be securing an important principle for everyone,” he concludes.
“That’s why everyone in Openreach should show solidarity with their PTT contract colleagues by signing the CWU’s Our Hourspetition immediately.”
Blazing a trail in Wales…
From Carmarthen in the south, right the way to a final photoshoot at Mount Snowdon in the north, last week’s Our Hours tour of Wales & The Marches was nothing if not ambitious.
Taking in no fewer than 13 workplace visits and a CWU branch meeting along the way, six volunteers from the region’s three T&FS branches climbed metaphorical mountains to highlight the injustice of PTT – speaking to hundreds of members and securing an impressive spike in the number of signatures on the union’s Our Hours petition in the process
Throughout the slightly surreal five-day escapade the self-styled ‘CWU time bandits’ remained resolutely in costume – transforming themselves into a motley crew of cartoon-style robbers to amplify the ‘time theft’ message.
Heavily utilising social media throughout , the stunt – which included daily video updates including interview with members and footage of the ‘time bandits’ at a series of iconic locations – reached considerably more members than were seen face-to-face. Targeting a total Openreach membership in Wales & The Marches of around 2,000, South Wales Branch’s Twitter account alone received more than 5,700 impressions during the week, including nearly 3,000 video views. A further 1,952 hits were secured on the Branch’s Facebook page – while the total number of impressions across the social media platforms and websites of the three participating branches topped 40,000.
Amongst the most poignant videos was an interview with two young Service Delivery members in Carmarthen who explained how the PTT they have to give at either end of the working day means they barely get to see their new-born babies awake. See video here.
Reflecting on a successful week of campaigning, the CWU’s regional Openreach co-ordinator for Wales & The Marches Graham Colk said: “We had a great reception everywhere we went – not just from those already impacted by PTT, but also those who aren’t – so it was definitely worthwhile.”
Insisting that, despite their comic-book crook appearance throughout the Tour, the key protagonists had, in reality, played the role of modern-day Robin Hoods, Graham concluded: “All the union reps involved took annual leave to participate – so in effect we gave our time to try to get our members’ time back. I think that’s quite symbolic of what the union is all about.”