TUPE talks deliver important safeguards for Supply Chain members


Intensive negotiations with BT Supply Chain and logistics giant GXO that were triggered by BT’s shock announcement last month of a major outsourcing of the company’s warehousing and transport operations have already delivered a raft of important safeguards and reassurances for those impacted.

Despite CWU dismay at being presented with a virtual ‘fait accompli’, with no opportunity being given for the union to champion an in-house solution before commercial contracts with GXO were signed – an omission that has been forcefully raised with senior BT management – the union has necessarily been focussing on defending the interests of members going forward.

These include not just the 288 Supply Chain staff who are now set to transfer to GXO on May 1 but also the 322 employees who are set to remain in BT – with the union seeking cast iron assurances on the company’s investment intentions and the long-term job security of those who stay in the ‘retained organisation’ – which will continue to be known as BT Supply Chain.

Particular clarity is urgently being sought over the future of around 60 employees carrying out ‘Staging & Configuration’ work at Magna Park, Staines, Leicester and Thatcham.

With those staff apparently not in scope for TUPE to GXO, but without any real clarity of their future in BT either, CWU assistant secretary Tracey Fussey stresses: “The lack of certainty over the future of this operation is unacceptable. We are committed to seeking an in-house solution is fully reviewed and we will continue to make representations to the company accordingly.”

Meanwhile, businesslike discussions with GXO  over the TUPE transfer are proceeding positively – with the union already receiving encouraging answers to a raft of questions which indicate that the company is committed to work with the union to ensure  the full range of TUPE protections for transferring staff are implemented in full.

These are detailed in BT Branch Bulletin No.23/2022, issued this afternoon, and include a commitment to honour to the 2022 BT pay review  and any October increments, as well as to grant the CWU full recognition rights what will allow the union to negotiate on behalf of members in future pay rounds.

Working hours, bonus payment percentages, notice periods and annual leave entitlements remain unchanged – and, significantly, important assurances on the continuity of pension provision have also been given as a result of CWU lobbying.

Tracey explains: “Although pensions are not covered under TUPE regulations, members currently have elements of pension arrangements which were negotiated by the CWU and are therefore considered to be under a collective agreement, which provides contractual protection.

“This refers specifically to the employer contribution rate of 10% and any additional transition arrangements. GXO have agreed to replicate the current employer contrition rates.

“We’ve made further representations, however, with regards to members of the BT Hybrid scheme and will update members as to the outcome of those discussions in due course.”


Ongoing issues…

With the broad range of GXO’s employment policies either mirroring BT’s – and sometimes even bettering them  – the CWU negotiating team is increasingly convinced that the TUPE transfer should be unproblematic for most members, especially those at the larger sites.

Intensive discussions are underway with both BT and GXO, however, over the fate of those working at Supply Chain’s smaller Cardiff and Taunton operations which have been earmarked for closure under the TUPE ‘measures’.

The work being conducted in those sites is currently proposed to be shifted to a GXO site in Avonmouth which, in the union’s view, is likely to be beyond reasonable travelling distance for most impacted members. The CWU is also attempting to drill down into any further indications of GXO’s future location strategy amid concerns that other sites may be vulnerable in the future.

“With that in mind we’re keen to ensure that opportunities exist for those who want to stay in BT for whatever reason – and this applies particularly to members in Cardiff and Taunton,” stresses Tracey.

The union has argued that, where individuals in scope of transfer either need or want to remain in Supply Chain, the displacement of temporary agency workers currently working in FSL and Pelipod activities should be considered. The CWU is  currently awaiting a company response.

“A significant number of in-scope members have also expressed a keenness to join Openreach, and the CWU has made representations as to how the external recruitment process can be bypassed where job opportunities exist,” Tracey continues. “We’ve requested a review as a matter of urgency due to the timescales of the TUPE.”

The CWU has also received categorical assurances that BT will seek to conclude the Driving Allowance review that it agreed to conduct last September prior to the TUPE transfer, and that GXO will complete the review if it has not been concluded by May 1.