The patently unfair treatment of an ever growing percentage of Openreach engineers who are being forced to work for up to two hours a day for free has prompted the launch of a major new CWU campaign.
OUR HOURS – which swung into gear last month with the launch of a petition and an associated publicity drive to make sure the company is left in no doubt as to the scale of employee anger – is demanding fair and equal treatment of engineers on the vexed issue of travel to and from the first and last jobs of the day.
Frustration at discrepancies in contracts that see some engineers compensated for their travelling time, but others forced to give up to ten hours a week for nothing, has been mounting since 2011 when the business introduced the Mobile Workforce and put new recruits outside the existing Parking at Home policy, with no agreed commute time.
Following CWU protests a 2012 agreement briefly resolved the issue by extending that policy to cover those affected, but in September that year Openreach reneged on the deal, introducing a 60-minute Personal Travel Time (PTT) system for all new recruits.
“We’ve been battling ever since to try to get PTT removed,” stresses CWU national officer for Openreach, Davie Bowman – but despite strenuous efforts the union was unable to prevent PTT being included in Workforce 2020 contracts when they were introduced in 2014.
High levels of recruitment since then means thousands of engineers are now affected, having to put in up to two hours of unpaid personal travelling time a day on top of their contracted hours – either 36 hours, for those employed before September 2014, or 37.5 hours for those employed subsequently.
Amid evidence suggesting that those on PTT are being deliberately allocated further flung jobs that maximise the number of unpaid hours Openreach receives from them, the company has blanked repeated CWU calls for a rethink.
That’s despite a 2015 European Court of Justice ruling which means travel time spent by mobile workers getting to, and returning home from, their first and last allocated jobs of the day is now legally deemed to constitute ‘work’ – therefore counting towards the 48-hour maximum allowed under the EU’s Working Time Directive (WTD).
The ECJ’s so-called ‘Tyco’ ruling means that an ever-growing number of Openreach engineers are falling within a whisker of that limit – even before overtime is taken into account.
“Openreach can’t get away from the fact that if you travel for an hour at the beginning and end of the working day, and work a 37.5 hour week, you’re already up to 47.5 hours – just half an hour shy of the WTD limit,” Davie points out.
“The CWU’s objective in launching the OUR HOURS campaign is very clear indeed: We want fairness, equity, justice for all, and a cessation of a situation where this terrible PTT commitment which is ruining many of our members’ work-life balance is removed once and for all.”
Clamour for fairness
With OUR HOURS campaign mate
rial being distributed far and wide following a major branch forum at CWU headquarters last month – and the petition (downloadable here) taking off, CWU’s Openreach national team members and SPOCs (Single Points of Contact) are adamant this is a battle the CWU can win.
Julia Upton, Openreach national team chair: “We’re appealing to all of our desk-based engineers and those who don’t have PTT in their contracts to support their colleagues who do. Solidarity is strength and we need to oppose this unfair practice united.”
Garry Woodman, Openreach national team: “People on PTT are being specifically picked (for certain jobs) so the company can get more work out of them for less – and that’s what it’s all about.”
John Donnelly, Openreach national team: “PTT is clearly discriminatory because there are some folk who are not involved in it, and others who are being continually asked to extend their working day unpaid to meet the terms of this obligation.”
Graham Colk, SPOC for Wales: “Our members are being exploited and the CWU is going to win this campaign to stop that from happening.”
Anne Nicholson, South East SPOC: “Making some of our people work up to an extra 60 minutes on either end of their working day is totally unacceptable.”
Paul Clark, South West SPOC: “Having a two-tier workforce with some people having to work up to ten extra hours per week is totally unfair and unjustifiable.”
Viv Heys, North East SPOC: “Clive Selley (Openreach CEO) needs to hear from the members themselves just how upset and aggrieved they are.”
Paul O’Hagan, North West SPOC: “The company is exploiting a contract variation that is both unjustified and bordering on morally wrong.”
Paul McGrath, Midlands SPOC: “The impact on work-life balance is serious. The fact PTT is unpaid but expected and being abused is a further kick in the teeth.”
Dave Patterson, SPOC for Scotland: “The balance of responsibility across teams is not fair and not even – and in rural areas, where PTT is especially utilised, there’s a double unfairness.”
Gordon Mason, SPOC for Eastern region: “People are all on certain wage, yet some have to put more hours in because of the travel time. It’s grossly unfair.”