Young workers lead opposition to ‘Big Brother Bosses’

Union Matters, Young Workers

Emergency resolution adopted at yesterday’s CWU Young Workers Conference ‘vehemently’ rejected inward-facing cameras in Openreach vehicles…

Although the company has stated that a decision on this has yet to be made, concerns have been growing among the union’s engineering membership that this intrusive measure is under serious consideration by the employer, following recent ambiguous statements by senior Openreach leaders.

Moving the proposition on behalf of the National Young Workers Committee, Openreach engineer Ieuan Davies (pictured above) cited a January conversation about the subject on the company’s ‘Workplace’ platform, in which, he said, the HR director had replied: ‘The team are looking at what tech is available’ in response to the question: ‘Are we talking about dashcams or driver cab cams?’

The conference motion cites this exchange and continues: “It later became evident in the interaction that other reasons for its possible use is to also follow suit of other large UK-based fleets which use this technology.’

While the reasons being given by the employer centre on health and safety of employees, the conference motion states: ‘We assert that such intrusive surveillance technologies will not improve health and safety for our members. On the contrary, they will contribute to a lack of privacy, could lead to unfair treatment and, in addition, the lack of transparency over what the data could be used for to make decisions that directly affect them in the future is worrying.’

Inward-facing cameras in vehicles are an example of “Big Brother surveillance by Big Brother bosses” said Ieuan, urging delegates to vote for the motion, which commits the Young Workers National Committee to ‘actively campaign against the implementation of inward-facing dashcams’ and to ‘collaborate with the CWU telecoms industrial executive’ in making clear to the company ‘our unequivocal opposition’ to this prospect.

Other delegates also spoke in support of the motion, citing metal health concerns and the fact that it could generate fears and distrust among workers. The motion was put to the vote and carried unanimously and will now be taken forward to the 2024 T&FS Annual Conference in April.

Earlier, North West regional secretary Carl Webb had welcomed delegates to the event, which was held in the iconic Mechanics Institute building, which, he reminded them, was where the TUC was founded way back in 1868. Carl talked about the importance of young members to the union – both today and into the future – and said that he was pleased at the numbers who had turned out.

Q & A with our General Secretary…
Carl then introduced general secretary Dave Ward, who spoke about the plans for restructuring as well as the need for active campaigning to further strengthen the CWU and ensure that younger members are at the forefront of the union going forward. Delegates at the conference should be inspired, he continued, by the examples of those who had initially come through the union’s young workers section to leading positions at branch, regional and national level.

Dave complemented the section on the important issues that were on the agenda for discussion, but also expressed some disappointment at the low proportion of industrial motions on the pad and made the point that political and industrial aspects of our union’s work need to be linked. This philosophy of linking the two aspects of our work is the driver of the CWU’s New Deal for Workers campaign which will, Dave said, be re-energised in the period leading up to this year’s general election. 

Taking questions from delegates, the first subject raised was the treatment of new employees by Royal Mail. There has been increasing concern among the CWU’s Delivery membership on this, which has put new starters onto significantly worse terms and conditions than existing workers. These new Ts&Cs include compulsory Sunday duties, insufficient notice of rest days, and different arrangements for breaks and sick pay and, as a consequence, more and more reports are coming in of new recruits leaving the business soon after starting. And a further concern has been recent reports of existing employees being threatened with being put onto those new Ts&Cs if they transfer to other Delivery units.

In his response, our general secretary reminded Conference that these new measures had not been agreed by the union, but had been imposed by the company and that the CWU is currently taking these issues up at national level and seeking urgent changes in this area.

Other questions raised included industrial relations with BT Group, the 2022 Enough is Enough campaign, proposals put forward by some economists for a Universal Basic Income and the prospect of a Labour Government being elected in this year’s general election.

Working through our agenda…

Conference itself then got down to business and, after an unsuccessful appeal by tech-sector branch UTAW delegate Shireen Asaw for Conference to hear a motion on the current Israel-Hamas war, the first motion heard was on the Openreach dash-cams issue reported above, which was followed by a successful proposition calling for increased paternity leave.

Shannon Connor, on behalf of the National Committee, moved a successful proposition calling for the abolition of the age-related differentials relating to the National Living Wage, a motion which Southdowns, Weald & Rother Branch delegate Jake Lawlor also spoke in support of, citing the fact that many young people – such as himself – may well have children and families to provide for at a young age and that NLW law should apply equally to all of working age.

Other resolutions adopted were one from the National Committee calling for improved trans healthcare and awareness, the need for education about trade unions in schools, for the establishment of workplace mental health first-aid reps and for an increase in the availability of affordable social housing across the UK.