Vindication for CWU on ISS redundancies amid wider concern on post-TUPE service levelsTelecoms & Financial Services September 25 2019
Strenuous efforts by the CWU to avert as many compulsory redundancies as possible at ISS have staved off what initially looked likely to be hundreds of forced exits from the company stemming directly from the bitterly disputed outsourcing of BT Facilities Services.
Back in May over 500 housekeepers – the majority of the housekeeping workforce that had only transferred from BTFS to ISS two months earlier – were served notice that a major restructuring exercise was getting underway that would involve redundancies on account of a new ‘target operating model’ that ISS announced it would introduce at the very start of the TUPE process.
Despite the insistence of senior BTFS managers that ‘nothing would change’ when the outsourcing bombshell was dropped on devasted staff last November – with some going so far as to accuse the CWU of scaremongering’ – the union had always been convinced that a major downsizing of the cleaning workforce would swiftly follow the TUPE.
As such, despite opposing the entire pretext of an outsourcing that the union still believes was fundamentally flawed on multiple levels, the union simultaneously took pains to negotiate a comprehensive job security agreement with ISS.
The resulting deal, signed within a whisker of the April 1 transfer date, didn’t take long to prove its worth.
“The significance of ISS’s redundancy announcement in May commencing with a voluntary exercise cannot be overstated in an outsourced cleaning services sector where compulsory redundancies can often be the default position in job loss situations” explains CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge.
“Whether or not that would have been the case at ISS had the job security agreement not been in place is impossible to say, but the fact we were able to present a forceful case for a VR exercise in all those sites affected at the very outset which fundamentally changed the dynamic.
“ This has resulted in 136 successful applications for VR and formed the first phase of an approach based on voluntarism in which the union has explored every avenue to maximise opportunities for redeployment, hours reductions and shift changes amongst the former BTFS housekeepers affected.”
In intricate discussions with ISS, the union has managed to ensure that a combination of redeployment and changes of hours – including reductions in contractual hours for 21 individuals which were made possible by compensatory arrangements agreed by the CWU – has removed a further 270 individuals from the ‘at risk’ register.
“We’ve got to the point where, having started with 503 people at risk, we’ve managed to remove from scope the vast majority of those who didn’t want to leave the company voluntarily,” Sally continues.
“From a situation where it initially looked as if hundreds across the country could face compulsory redundancy, we are now looking at just 19 currently in scope and a further 12 who are still in the consultation stage for whom every possible alternative outcome is being explored.
“While it’s still a great source of sadness to the CWU that compulsorily redundancies are happening at all, that doesn’t diminish the enormous achievement of the union in mitigating as far as possible this deeply regrettable situation – nor our success in ensuring that the selection criteria ultimately agreed with ISS were as fair and transparent as they could possibly be.”
Chickens coming home to roost over disputed BTFS outsourcing?
The CWU has today (Wednesday) issued urgent guidance to branches as to how to deal with any housekeeping and property maintenance standards across the BT Estate.
With the volume of calls to CWUHQ mushrooming over problems ranging from cleanliness standards to growing backlogs in areas of general maintenance and repair, the union has just met with the Property & Facilities Services management team that oversees the functions that have now been outsourced to CBRE, which in turn sub-contracted housekeeping and security to ISS.
At the union’s request, details of a three-stage escalation process has now been provided – along with a complete list of the CBRE and ISS management contacts responsible for service level failures in their areas.
Assistant secretary Sally Bridge said: “With scores of problems ranging right the way from blocked toilets to the lack of toilet paper, cleaning standards, the non-replacement of lightbulbs and other important repairs not being carried out in a timely manner, a worrying picture is emerging of just the sort of decline in service level standards that the CWU always warned that the outsourcing of BTFS could result in.
“We’re closely monitoring the situation and working with Property & Facilities Services as well as CBRE & ISS. We will be highlighting any unacceptable service level declines which obviously impact directly on our membership in BT Group.”