Saturday attendance levels intolerable in Openreach

Anger at the level of Saturday attendances that engineers are being forced to work in Openreach spilled over at CWU Annual Conference, with no fewer than three motions on the order pad condemning the company’s flouting of the Service Delivery Transformation (SDT) agreement.

With huge number of engineers across the country having to work well over the 12 Saturday attendances per annum allowed under the agreement, delegates were adamant the current situation is simply unacceptable.

Opinions differed, however, on how Saturday attendances can be reined in – with a majority of delegates rejecting a call from Greater London Combined branch for the union to serve notice on the SDT package in its entirety by September or ballot for industrial action.

Warning such a route was dangerous with potentially profoundly negative unintended consequences, assistant secretary Davie Bowman pointed out it could “open the door for the company to seek a far more flexible and far-reaching approach to attendances that our members would not thank us for.”

With the Executive intending to back instead a Coventry branch motion demanding a campaign to ensure that a maximum of 12 Saturdays a year is enshrined as ‘standard practice’  – and that any additional demands for Saturday working by the company be substantiated with a jointly agreed action plan to bring the number down the following year – the union’s resolve to tackle the issue was never in question.

In the event, however, a majority of delegates backed a South London, Surrey  & North Hampshire branch motion which demands that Openreach falls into line with the previously agreed ceiling of 12 Saturdays per year by the end of June – on pains of a major CWU campaign regarding members’ lack of work/life balance that could involve industrial action.

Soundbites from the debate:

Bill Dixon, South London, Surrey & North Hampshire: “It’s quite clear that the company is not sticking to agreements and we need to pull them back. We need to get back to only going above 12 Saturdays in exceptional circumstances.”

Dave Kauffman, South East Central: “This is a resourcing issue in Openreach – it’s not just a Saturdays issue – and how long do you give the company to get their resourcing right? This is about pushing the company back on what is acceptable and what is not.”

Paul Clark, Great Western branch: “When we have COT called some of our members are having to work 20 or 24 Saturdays, because if you are on a five day week and they call COT you have no option but to come in on a Saturday or a Sunday.”

Ryan Rochester, Coventry: “We need to fight back because Saturdays should be as voluntary as possible. There are a lot of football, rugby and netball players who want to play on a Saturday and a lot of people who simply want to spend time with their family. This is really affecting people’s work/life balance.”