MINUTES of the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of the
CENTRAL COUNTIES & THAMES VALLEY BRANCH, Held at THE RIVERSIDE CLUB, HIGH WYCOMBE.
On Monday 27th February 2017.
Chairperson: M. French
There were 23 members in attendance.
1) Chairpersons Opening Remarks.
Mark welcomed members to the meeting.
Also welcoming Head Office speakers, John Donnelly and Dave Mitchell.
A list of the branch members who had passed away since the last AGM was read out by the Chair and a minutes silence was held in respect of: –
Mr Christopher Readings, Mr John Morris, Mr Ken Drew, Mr Malcolm Nunn, Mr J W Sellars, Mr Rob Banfield, Mr John Wood, Mr Anthony Edmead, Mr John Wood, Mr Francis Pike, Mr Robert George Freed and Mr Robert Ayres, special mention was made of Sue Lewis our former Branch Secretary who had also passed away last year.
2) Apologies: S. Ranch, R. Howard, T. Groom, R. Simpson, L. Hemmings, J. Gray.
3) Minutes of the Previous AGM 2016.
The minutes of the previous Annual General Meeting, held on the 27th Jan 2016, were proposed correct by George Kneeshaw, seconded by Martin House and agreed by the members present and signed as such.
4) Matters Arising From Those Minutes.
There were no maters arising.
5) Secretary’s Report.
The Secretary welcomed members to the 2017 AGM. It has been a busy year for us in the branch, with many changes since last we met. We currently have 2733 members in our branch, of which 1721 are employed by BT. (BAME 17% Women 10% under 30 yrs 7%).
I feel it is important to mention this because we can all to easily focus on our own little worlds and what concerns us while sometimes overlooking those people in other industries and lines of business which we sometimes think have nothing to do with us, so I would like to thank all our reps and activists who put so much of their own time and efforts in to representing all our members.
This time last year it seemed most of our time was spent fighting the iniquitous system of performance management in BT particularly in service delivery, I am glad to say that we have mostly put this issue to bed; the company has realised it did not work and has even apologised for the way it was handled. This had came since Openreach has a new CEO, Clive Sully. This does not mean PM has entirely disappeared; nature abhors a vacuum, so the managers will have to find something to justify their existence!
It’s just that the emphasis will be placed on customer satisfaction and quality.
Last summer the company came to us with proposals to increase the amount of Saturdays worked in SD, after many meetings and escalations we eventually had to accede to the company’s business needs case that extra Saturdays were needed in line with the SDT agreement, however we are insistent that the company needs to resource its work flow requirements adequately so that our members work life balance remains a priority.
To this end the company has recruited massively and we have been in discussions to normalise Saturday working as soon as can be managed.
Pay and pensions are obviously a great concern to many of us and I hope our guest speakers will be able to enlighten us more this evening.
The workforce 20/20 contract continues to vex us with all its anomalies and contradictions around matching skills to pay bands etc. However we hope to have an agreement on this soon.
In the wider world the referendum result surprised not a few of us, and the ramifications have still to manifest themselves in regards to what will become of us post Brexit! As for the new US president I will make no comment other than to repeat the old saw that “when America sneezes the rest of the world seems to catch a cold”.
The CWU will face many challenges in the next few years, not least from a hostile Tory government and anti union employers. We will need to recruit aggressively and effectively in order to have a strong working base that will protect all of our rights terms and conditions. The Secretary finished his report by informing the members that we should have no tolerance of non-members.
6) Financial Secretary’s Report.
Tim gave the usual upbeat financial report which was welcomed by the members present. The branch’s 2016 accounts were presented to the meeting and are attached. There were again no questions from the floor, which was terribly sad as the Financial Secretary had spent a lot of time researching in to all the answers to almost any question which could have been asked. The General, Political and Welfare accounts were proposed as correct by Martin House, seconded by Richard Abbiss. Agreed by the meeting. 7) Auditor’s Report.
The Financial Secretary presented a signed auditor’s report on the branch accounts to the meeting. The branch had also been audited by Head Office during the summer, a couple of minor issues had been highlighted and these have now been dealt with.
Tim thanked the auditors, Steve Rance and Bob Howard, for their work on the branch audit.
8) Other Specialist Reports. Retired Members Section. Steve Taylor gave a brief report. The branch had around 380 retired members and an active retired section. Steve had attended the Eastern Region Retired Committee meetings, along with other local organisational meetings within our geography, as well as attending the Retired Members conference.
One of the main issues at present, was with the change to rules, done unilaterally by Head Office to stop retired members taking up post and losing voting rights. HO decision had been made following legal advice. Retired members are classed as ‘ex-members’ these ex members number around 18,000 and give £1M to the CWU in membership fees. Prop to challenge this decision had been thrown out by HO, but a prop to Conference has been submitted from the branch to rename retired members to ‘member’ from ‘ex-members’. Awaiting feedback from the SOC.
Health & Safety. Eamonn McLaughlin had made a report available, which is copied below.
Working in the Hours of Darkness (WITHOD) and Working on Joint User Poles
It was regionally reported, that a number of Openreach external engineers had either received no training on WITHOD or joint user poles, or did not feel that they had received adequate updates and notifications. The branch has had a few engineers come through to us, mainly around updates and risk assessment. All engineers must have had the training to work either in the dark or on joint user poles, which can involve high voltage and the use of blue ladders.
• If you have not had the adequate training, do not attempt the work.
• Contact your manager and then inform us.
• If you have been trained, fully risk assess the job and your environment, before commencing any work.
• If you feel that it is unsafe to work then inform your manager and give the job back.
The risk assessments you do for both WITHOD and joint user poles, covers off the specific circumstances of when it is safe to and not safe to carry out the work. Ultimately it is your decision and you cannot be forced to complete work that you deem to be unsafe.
As far as updates and notifications are concerned, Openreach use Safe and Well newsletter and the odd safety alert, as their main form of communication for external engineers and office based employees. This is an easy tool for the company to prove that all employees have received the relevant information. However my concerns are, sometimes the documents are not only instructive but complex and refer to other documents to be read in conjunction with the articles and there appears to be no feedback on whether or not they have been read and understood. There is also nothing to show when the employees were given the time to read and absorb the information and if they were given a direct local contact for any questions.
I have recommended that management go back to local refresher training on a regular basis and separate safety meetings. I do not believe that it is enough for employees to just receive Safe and Well. Every month the newsletter is produced that involves either updating information, new information, asking the employees to refresh their knowledge and incidents to be aware of, all teams should hold a “Safe and Well” meeting with a competent safety employee as the lead. During the forum all the information can be disseminated and any questions answered. I would like some feedback on this, so please contact me.
Union Safety Representatives (USR’s)
The branch is in the process of recruiting new USR’s. The areas we need representation in are for BT employees and are around the Milton Keynes and Oxford/Aylesbury patches. Individuals who are interested will be required to attend several week long residential training courses and on completion will gain recognised qualifications. To some degree USR’s are the face of the union and over the course of their duties including building inspections and accident investigations, get to engage with a large proportion of the workforce. It is an important and satisfying role and helps to guarantee a healthier and safer workplace. If you are interested, or know someone who is, then please contact me.
Vauxhall ecoFLEX Vans
Nationally Openreach have been rolling out the Vauxhall ecoFLEX van. A number of members have come through to the branch with concerns. There does not appear to have been any engagement with engineers or the union on the suitability of the internal racking design. The vehicle has two sliding side doors and two rear doors, with a T-shaped racking system so that no part of the three areas is accessible from the other. Tools and equipment that are regularly used are sometimes hard to get to without moving potentially awkward or heavy items first. All in a confined area.
However the main concern is that where previously the safe/s were on the passenger side, they are now on the driver’s side. Laptops and JDSU’s/testers as well as other charging items
must be kept locked away when not in use. If an engineer parks up facing the way they are driving (as they should), when they go to retrieve their regularly used equipment from the driver’s side sliding door, there is the potential to be hit by a vehicle. There are no recommended safe methods of working provided by the company for this, including types of road and speeds of traffic (quiet residential road vs busy main road). Usually it would be recommended that some form of roadworks guarding be put out first before accessing this area.
I am in the process of writing a report for the Health and Safety team with a recommendation of getting the racking retrospectively changed and would like some further feedback. If you have recently started using this vehicle or have done so for a while, please contact me with your thoughts or concerns.
Accident Reporting in BT
Accidents in the branch have stayed at a steady number. For the past few months as per this time of year slips, trips and falls, as well as musculoskeletal injuries are quite prevalent. We would encourage individuals to take their time when working in poor conditions, especially when they are lifting items and using stairs/steps as well as walking over wet and slippery surfaces. Several injuries have occurred whilst either getting out of vans or stepping off of the back of a van, lifting an item and twisting as well as working in cramped positions and then trying to stand up. Sprains, pulled muscles and tendons are regularly reported.
As far as accident reporting goes, there is still some confusion as to who is responsible. The simple answer is you. Do not rely on your manager to complete this, especially if you end up taking time off work. This can have a huge impact on you and cause unnecessary stress in regards to you being investigated over your sick attendance. You still need to inform your manager immediately if possible, of an accident and subsequent injury. However all accidents must be reported by you within 24hrs, to the Accident and Incident Reporting Group (AIRG) on 0800 671 345.
If you are incapacitated and unable to report the accident, then report it as soon as you are able to, explaining why you have been unable to (in care of the hospital etc). If you do not, your manager will not automatically do this for you, no accident will be recorded and no accident investigation will be triggered. If you have had to take time off work it will not be attributed to the accident at work.
When you report an accident contact the branch and tell us. When your manager conducts an accident investigation you will be interviewed and most likely attend the site of the accident. Your manager should invite a Union Safety Representative to the meeting. They do not always do this, so be proactive and inform us. If you are not found culpable for the accident or any injury sustained and you have had time off sick, it should be reflected on your absence record that the sick leave is attributed to an accident at work and should not be taken into account with any other sick leave you may have incurred. If you feel you have the grounds for making an injury claim then either contact the branch or you can contact the CWU’s own law firm UNIONLINE on 0300 333 0303.
Work Related Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Work related stress is on the rise and according to the HSE, remains one of the top causes of sick related absences. Work related stress, depression or anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. Unfortunately within BT and many other companies nationally these absences/incidents are not always specifically recorded and are lumped together under the description of “other”. We have been campaigning, to get these life changing conditions more formally recognised within the industries we represent and hope to see some movement on this in the near future. To help us, the branch would greatly appreciate that you report any such occurrences to us directly, so that we can collect the relevant information for inclusion and future consultation.
Workers Memorial Day 28th April 2017
Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers.
Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.
The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”.
In 2017 International Workers Memorial Day will have the theme Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are and will focus on inequalities in occupational health and the role unions play in narrowing the inequalities gap. The TUC will particularly want to focus on the hidden and new GIG economies, the risks faced by migrant workers and the issues of gender and class.
Further information can be found on the TUC website – www.tuc.org.uk
The CWU website will be showing events we are involved in, nearer the time. www.cwu.org
Political Report. Steve Phillips gave a brief report. He attended a Labour Party Workplace 2020 event last Thursday evening in Luton to represent the CWU and the branch. The event was launched by Ian Lavery MP, who is Shadow Minister. This is the biggest nationwide engagement the Labour Party has ever launched and is designed to create workplaces fit for the future by engaging with trade unions, labour party members, and working people.
Under the Tories: Wages have fallen and too many workers face low pay, millions of workers are facing job insecurity in the workplace, with unpredictable shifts and temporary contracts, irresponsible and exploitative businesses have been left unchecked
Labour Will: Raise the minimum wage, Protect workers right and ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, crack down on rogue employers and false self employment.
It had been disappointing to see that Labour had lost a ‘safe seat’ held for 80 years.
Labour has committed to promoting new and innovative industries and support high quality jobs. From day one working people will have equal rights in the workplace, whether they are in temporary or permanent, full or part time work.
On October 18th last year I spent a day in Westminster lobbying MP’s over the campaign against the breakup of Openreach as a result of Ofcom’s Digital Communications Review which has been going through parliament. On the whole I received positive support for the CWU’s case not to separate Openreach from BT with all the impacts that this could have on the workforce and the infrastructure. We are however still awaiting a final announcement by Ofcom.
I also attended the Eastern Region Labour party conference in November last year at Southend as part of the CWU delegation where I continued to lobby Labour MP’s over Ofcom’s Digital Comms Review.
BT Fleet. Steve Phillips gave a brief report.
Garage Services Incentive Scheme (Bonus Scheme), this had been introduced by executive action without any final agreement by CWU and is causing a lot of problems. It was thought that maybe the Union should seek an agreement so as to have more control over it. We have been told that discussions are taking place to resolve outstanding issues with the scheme, reference workforce 2020 employees in BT Fleet. Fleet have been receiving some very negative feedback from members regarding how the scheme is working and have said that they are going to look at certain areas of the scheme which are causing concern among the workforce. The main areas are as follows.
Leave: Some are being disadvantaged due to the amount of leave they have when compared with others who have less
Individual v Team Productivity: Finding a balance between these two measures which both have their pro’s and con’s
Behaviours: Due to individual productivity some staff will not support others or may decide to cut corners.
There was concern raised that any bonus scheme could result in rushed, possibly unsafe repairs to vehicles which could result in members having accidence.
Allowance for MOT Testers. We are again pressing Fleet to put in place an allowance to be paid to our members who are MOT Testers, in recognition of the extra responsibility of carrying out these tests. This has been highlighted again by recent discipline cases involving issues resulting from MOT tests carried out by our members. If we are unsuccessful in securing this with Fleet, we are considering a motion to this year’s CWU Annual Conference on this issue.
TIC’s running Workshops. We have been in talks with Fleet over some time now, regarding the issue of Technicians in charge (C1 grade) running smaller workshops which in our view should be a Workshop Supervision grade (C2 grade) . We have been strongly arguing that running these smaller workshops involves the same level of responsibility and skill level as larger workshops. Fleet have now finally agreed with us on this issue and plan to convert C1 to Workshop Supervisor C2 pay grades shortly. Fleet have also agreed that where B2’s are covering TIC (C1) roles running a workshop, they will be converted to Workshop Supervisor (C2).
Aylesbury workshop new build. We are still getting many issues with this site, there is currently a long ‘snag’ list on the building, there are also H&S issues where the ramps in the workshop are not being (LOLER) certificated i.e. tested. This has resulted in all work being stopped in the workshop until the issue was resolved. This only came to light when I and another BT Fleet USR, Paul Rath, along with two BT Fleet H&S managers visited the site on Tuesday Jan 17th.
Royal Mail HWDC Report. Paul Milward gave a report which is copied below.
HWDC has been busy over the previous year with a lot of issues that have required Union support and guidance. I have been working closely with John Humphries who is a territory representative from London Postal Engineering.
The main issue that is being dealt with by the union is that of the future of HWDC in the unit it currently resides. The lease on the unit is due to expire in 2020. This has involved a lot of work by John Humphreys, Davie Robertson, our local operational representatives and assistance when required from Ray Ellis’s department. Currently the issue surrounding the renewal of the lease hasn’t been concluded which has left the entire membership in limbo with regards to a future within the business. I am lead to believe that the lease is currently being negotiated by Rico Back (the CEO of GLS, part of Royal Mails parcel section) and he is of the opinion that the lease doesn’t need to be worried about until nearer the expiry date. This has, and is being challenged by the afore mentioned union officials and discussions are ongoing.
There has been an issue within our membership of bullying, which I have challenged and brought to the management’s attention. I have attended numerous meetings with management to try and push this issue forward and we are currently working together to try and eradicate the problem. We are doing this via team briefs and following Royal Mails policies as well as highlighting to staff that it is unacceptable to bully and harass people.
We have once again had issues with members being paid incorrectly. I have challenged this issue and it is still ongoing while we work together to try and find a workable solution that will, hopefully, prevent the issue reoccurring.
I have had a proposal to put to the membership by our management team with regards to our current annual leave agreement. Management wish to enforce a new regime on how
members take their annual leave. I have met with all the membership to take their views and concerns over the proposal, which was unanimously rejected. I am currently scheduling a meeting with our management department to break the news to them and to see in which direction they wish to move next.
Shift numbers of engineers has been demeaned over the previous year with one member emigrating and management ‘constructing’ a new day shift team of engineers. This has served to antagonise the members that are left on shift as it has meant that they are under staffed and has prompted the above proposal by management with regards to annual leave. This has meant members have been unable to take their leave when they wanted to and are faced with a use it or lose it situation at the end of the leave year.
There has of course been the usual requirement for Union representative services for the routine issues such as attendance reviews, grievances and bullying and harassment.
Health and Safety wise there has been a proposal put to the membership by management over the training and incorporation of High Voltage switching work. I attended preliminary meetings and discussions with my management team where I voiced concerns from both a safety stance and from an IR stance as this would mean a renegotiation of our end state contracts. In the end I chose to pass the issue up to Stephen Howlett who is a National Engineering Safety Representative. I did this as I possessed neither the skill nor theoretical knowledge to be able to enter into any agreement with my managers over such a working procedure. I was also aware that this may have implications for the rest of the countries engineering staff as Royal Mail are looking at rolling the work amendments out at other units across the country. As far as I am aware this issue is now being given the correct level of service from the Union at national level.
Youth Report. Jamie George reported on the Youth activities he had undertaken the previous year. He had attended the ROC event at York along with proportionality meetings and Youth conference. He was made the Secretary of the Eastern Region Youth committee and had attended the CWU Annual Conference. Prop with regard to shorter working week had been submitted.
Union courses Skills I, II and III had been completed and Jamie had attended workshop visits with Steve Phillips along with pre-hearing in Industrial Tribunal. Recruitment event for Openreach at Yarnfield and was elected on to the National Youth committee. Jamie will be going to Cuba for the Solidarity Campaign event. He emphasised the importance of getting youngsters involved in the trade union movement. The meeting thanked Jamie for all his good work throughout the years.
Equality Report. George Kneeshaw had produced a report which was made available to the meeting and is copied below.
The branch was able to attend and participate in all the CWU equality conferences in 2016 so I’d like to thank all officers who represented us and for the reports that were provided.
Mental Health continues to be a growing issue for the branch with work related stress now being the most common cause of sick absence. It is my view that whilst some positive steps have been taken by the employers, there are still major problems with unsympathetic managers who refuse to accept or address the work related issues that can be a driver for depression and anxiety.
The branch continues to see examples of discrimination in the workplace. A particular concern is for those who may develop a disability/health problem that impacts on their ability to do their current job. Too often the employer will not offer appropriate support in either making adjustments to members job role to allow them to continue working or to make proper efforts to find an alternative role within the company. All too often this can result in a dismissal. The good news is that as members, if there is evidence of discrimination, you can be supported by your union at an employment tribunal. Previously tribunals were free but the
Conservative government introduced fees of over £1000 to go to court meaning that for many people justice is no longer available. However for members these fees are payable by the CWU if the union believes you have a case. For further advice please contact the branch.
9) Adoption of new Branch bye-laws & Election Rules.
The branch had been instructed to update our rules to reflect the model constitution and also to put in place rules and regulations for future branch elections.
The new proposed bye-laws were made available to the meeting. These had been agreed by the branch steering committee. It was proposed by Richard Sermon “That the branch adopt the new bye laws”, Seconded by George Kneeshaw, there was no debate and the prop was carried by the meeting.
10. Nominations and Election of Delegates to Affiliated Bodies. There were no new delegates elected. Delegates to Trades Council and CLPs were normally agreed at the branch steering committee meetings.
A list of the attendees to this year’s CWU Annual Conference were read out and are below –
Mark French, Richard Sermon, Steve Phillips, Andy Batson, Gordon Mason, Jamie George
Paul Milward, Martin House and Steve Taylor. These delegates and observers were proposed by Richard Sermon, Seconded by Eamonn McLaughlin and agreed.
11. Nominations for NEC and National Officers. As yet no nominations had been received, any lists, slates will be issued out.
Jamie would like to attend the European event, Richard will back.
12. Propositions to the Branch and to Annual Conference.
There had been no props received to the branch.
Three props to General conference and two props to T&FS conference had been submitted from the branch. These were made available to the meeting.
> It was then agreed by the meeting that we move the agenda to item 14, Invited Guest Speaker(s).
14. Invited Guest Speaker(s).
John Donnelly introduced himself a as member of the Openreach National Team, with some influence on other LOB’s.
Big issues with 2020 workforce contracts, branches need to organise meetings with these people. There would have been worse terms and conditions if the CWU had not agreed to this, but there was a need to move forward to get better, more equal T&C’s.
Working together and centres of excellence had caused problems, there was a need to keep people who want to advance in field roles.
Performance management has changed in Service Delivery, with the move away from individual performance to team based performance.
The Ofcom digital review was causing problems, legal separation is one thing, but main problems are what will happen to the pension fund and how Openreach could seek funding in the financial markets if forced to separate totally. OLO’s do not want to fill the gap in Network moving forward.
Ability to maintain recruitment is vital to the Union, with more younger people needed, but need a stronger union across all age groups.
BT Pay, John highlighted the latest offer, with BT wanting to move from RPI to CPI. Union seeking an increase for all, with no downgrade in pension, but do need to address the ‘pay gap’ to the 2020 workforce.
Saturday working had been a problem on Service Delivery. BT had invoked the 2010 agreement, but any increase from 12 Saturdays a year needs to be reviewed annually. Although this agreement was unpalatable in some aspects, it had stopped BT having total flexibility in Saturday and Sunday working and start and end of day working.
Dave Mitchell continued with the HO speakers report.
The move from individual to team based performance management has caused problems with some managers, as they now had to get more involved with their staff and be out there with them to see the problems members encounter day to day.
In the past managers have blamed HR, but it is down to the manager on how cases are moved forward.
A Q&A session followed.
A case of discipline of planner was discussed, where the line manager had blamed HR, targets had been hard to understand. HO will help individuals and give reps guidance.
BT Pay. It was agreed that pensionable pay should not be compromised. Talks had been difficult but don’t want to agree differential terms for different pension schemes. BT are trying to exploit and divide members. Members will have the final say to any offer. If this is going to be the final offer, then branch should recommend industrial action.
Issues with amount of Saturdays worked being different across the branch area, need to balance across entire workforce.
Performance Management. Stick has been removed, productivity has not gone down.
People need encouragement not pressure from SOM’s and upper management
13. Any Other AGM Business.
There was no any other AGM Business