Your union needs YOU – T&FS young worker reps told

Telecoms & Financial Services

Young worker reps from across the country converged on CWU headquarters in Wimbledon yesterday (Thursday) for the second specially convened forum for branch youth officers from across the telecoms and financial services (T&FS) sector.

Following on from the inaugural T&FS Young Workers meeting that took place in April, no fewer than 20 young reps from 20 branches – all aged 30-or-under – attended the now quarterly event which is intended to ensure that issues affecting young members are placed at the heart of the union’s negotiating agenda.

Opening yesterday’s meeting, deputy general secretary Andy Kerr cited the high percentage of workers under the age of 30 across the T&FS sector – stressing the importance of recognising that the primary concerns of workers at opposite ends of the age demographic are not always the same.

“In Openreach over 30 per cent of employees are aged 30 or under, and that’s a massive figure…over 8,000 people,” he insisted.

“In Consumer it’s even more startling, because 67 per cent of people are on Workforce 2020 contracts that have only been place for five years….meaning that in excess of 50 per cent of the workforce is under 30.

“In Santander as well there is a large and growing number of young workers – and I think we need to recognise that there can be a real divide between the outlook of someone who is 45-plus, with 20 to 25 years in the job, and what they expect compared to workers under the age of 30.

“That’s not to say that one group of members is more important than the other, because we need to address both sets of issues. It is crucial, however, that we really understand what young members want the CWU to do for them, and once we understand that I need to know what people like you can do to help us achieve it.”


Detailed dialogue

A detailed discussion on what the CWU’s priorities for young members across the T&FS should be began in earnest in three separate breakout sessions  covering Openreach, BT Consumer/ EE and Santander.

Top of the agenda in the Openreach session was the union’s ‘Our Hours’ campaign  against the unfair treatment of an ever-growing percentage of Openreach engineers who are forced to give hours of their time for free every week on account of a toxic combination of Personal Travel Time (PTT) and abuses of the Flex system by some managers. (See story here)

Other issues discussed included a raft of grading and resourcing issues in different parts of Openreach, including the CWU’s on-going efforts to reduce the company’s reliance on offshoring and third party labour.

The Consumer/ EE breakout session, meanwhile , covered issues ranging from attendance patterns in Consumer,  performance related pay and the so-called ‘Quintile’ system in EE and problems across the piece with sick absence management.

A sizeable chunk of the discussion centred on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – with delegates contrasting the chasm that sometimes exists between enlightened company policies and actual practice on the ground.

The Santander breakout session involved a detailed discussion about how the union operates in that company.


Developing an agenda

Given the wealth of subject areas for possible CWU campaigning that were discussed, and the shortage of time at yesterday’s meeting, plans are taking shape for the next T&FS Young Workers forum to be a two-day affair.

Urging all those youth officers present to go back to their regions with a view to encouraging even greater participation at the next forum, Andy stressed that a true solidarity of purpose, and the full-throttled pursuance of the priority areas that are ultimately agreed, is crucial given an economic and political environment that looks set to become increasingly challenging for workers of all ages.

“Unless we get a General Election fairly quickly things are not going to look good for workers in the next period of time,” he stressed. “With Brexit hanging over our heads, plus the way the economy is going  – combined with a leadership in No.10 who are no friends of workers and will be supportive or the dampening down of wages and Ts&Cs – at best we’re  looking at a continuation of what’s been happening for the last decade and possibly even worse.”

That, Andy insisted, presents particular challenges in the big companies in which the majority of CWU members work – because while the union has had an impressive track record of success in defending  better than average pay rates and Ts&Cs across the recognised sector, attacks on those terms become far more likely when a race to the bottom is prevalent elsewhere.

“The outlook at the moment is that things are going to get harder before they get better – and that means we have to look very carefully at things like job security.” Andy insisted.

“It used be the case that people joined companies like BT and Girobank at the age of 15 or 16 and stayed until they were 60, but that’s not the prevailing attitude any longer. Partly that’s because some  younger people do want to change jobs more often than was the case in the past, but there’s no doubt  in my mind that  job security still crucially important and something we need to stand very firm on indeed..

Referring to BT’s looming ‘Better Workplace’ site strategy, and the huge rationalisation of the number of workplace buildings being proposed, he concluded: “Our position is quite clear. If there is one compulsory redundancy anywhere in the country within BT we will ballot for industrial action. It doesn’t matter whether that person is an 18-year-old or a 60-year-old – and that position is NOT going to change.”