Virgin Media O2 pay talks continue

Telecoms & Financial Services


CWU working with VM02 to help tackle impact of soaring inflation, after union highlights members’ cost-of-living concerns…

“We’re extremely keen to progress this pay conversation as quickly as possible, as our members need more money now and we’ll continue our efforts to seek a fair outcome that alleviates the worsening financial pressures on hard-working employees,” stresses CWU national officer for VMO2, Tracey Fussey.

Hundreds of members work for VM02 mostly at sites in Lancashire (Preston Brook, Runcorn) and West Yorkshire (Arlington, Leeds), as well as in retail roles at the company’s many stores throughout the UK.

Earlier this year, members received a 3 per cent pay rise for 2022 and notified of a 2 per cent increase for 2023 – but neither of these settlements had been agreed by the union and, over the past few months, the union pushed hard for VM02 to re-open formal pay talks.

“We held a consultative ballot of our members back in April, and then we moved an Emergency Motion on this at Annual Conference that was unanimously carried by delegates and which gave us approval to hold a formal and statutory membership ballot,” explains Tracey.

“At the same time, we carried out a major engagement initiative with our members and this involved our reps contacting them and asking them a series of questions about how the company’s pay policy made them feel, whether they supported the CWU’s pay campaign, and perhaps most importantly, how the cost-of-living crisis was affecting them personally in terms of their own respective household budgets and the impacts on their families.

“And a combination of the results of this mass survey – anonymised of course – plus the overwhelming endorsement in the consultative poll and the prospect of a full statutory ballot to come next has contributed to continuing constructive talks and a review by the business, reflected by the July joint statement. They clearly listened to our members and have demonstrated that they do want to take the opportunity to do the right thing in the midst of the crisis, which led to the discussion we’re now engaged in.”

The joint statement – entitled Working Together – was signed by Philipp Wohland (people and transformation director) on behalf of the business and by Tracey as lead CWU negotiator and makes clear that both parties are ‘conscious of the difficulties and pressures that the rising cost of living is causing for many’ and that ‘the results of the CWU consultative ballot and surveys of CWU members are fully recognised.’

Speaking in more detail about the membership survey, Tracey told CWU News that reps carrying it out had reported members “feeling undervalued and underpaid” by the employer and “very worried about how they’re going to make ends meet,” and that “some of the responses to the survey were very moving and upsetting.

“Some of our members, for example, told us about how they’ve felt when customers have rung up to complain about Telefonica/VM02 raising the airtime portion of a minority of customers’ bills by 11.7 per cent, putting them in a position where they have to try to defend the company’s rising prices, when they themselves are only getting a 5 per cent pay deal over two years.

“It was a difficult position for them,” Tracey pointed out.

“We got a response rate of over 80 per cent and the results of which have been shared with the company. Am I optimistic about the talks? Yes, I always try to be optimistic and it’s definitely a big step forward we’re now having this conversation. In the midst of the current crisis, listening to us and getting back into discussions with is the right thing to do. VMO2 have demonstrated responsibility and a desire to help, we welcome that and of course that is the preferred position”.

“The onus is now on them, as the employer, to improve the situation of their dedicated and loyal staff.”

Tracey said that she was “extremely appreciative of the efforts that all our other national team members and reps have put in with this membership engagement activity. That the response rate to the survey was extremely high and that this, on top of the huge result of our consultative ballot result clearly showed that employees are in dire need of a much better pay settlement.

“Getting back into talks is a big step in the right direction, we are keen to resolve this and are seeking some real financial improvement for our members.”