Message To Our Openreach Members – Updated 7th July 2020

7th July 2020 – Openreach Ltd. Covid 19 Safe Working

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 the CWU has continued to do all it can, both nationally and locally, to ensure that you are kept as safe as possible.  Things have continued to develop and change as Government guidance in different nations has evolved at different paces and we begin to ‘unlock’.
Once again, thank you for staying in touch with your branches, and for your ongoing feedback, which is fantastic in providing us with detailed insight into the challenges that you are facing.

In light of the heightened anxiety last week, following the decision to continue with lockdown measures in Leicester, it was felt that this further communication may be timely. Also, we received increased contact from members expressing concern that, as other parts of the country start to relax their lockdown measures, there appears to be a general desensitisation taking place about the Covid19 risks, based upon some of the wider society messaging and behaviour.

Many of you have made the point that Openreach’s apparent dilution of some of their previous guidance, has suggested that there has been a return to a more ‘Business as Usual’ approach, with the: work stack; operational pressures; push for overtime; and the reintroduction of vehicle sharing (albeit only for exceptional emergency / essential purposes), all, seemingly, taking priority over the Covid19 Safe Working Measures.

In addition, many of you are involved in desk based activities which impacts directly on the work your field colleagues receive and carry out. The CWU appreciates all that you are doing to ensure that your field colleagues are safe and well during this time.

The Covid19 risks are still very real and the Safety First message remains. As such, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you always carry out your own Personal Risk Assessment and that this, and your own safety, overrides everything else.

Please remain vigilant at all times and observe all social distancing measures (which, whilst working for Openreach, remains at 2 metres wherever possible). You must follow the Safe System of Work before entering any customer premises and, as stated, conduct your Personal Risk Assessment, particularly in relation to PPE provision and Hygiene requirements.

There are three areas which must be emphasised and we make no apologies for repeating them in all of our communications to you, as we believe they are critical to maximising not just your own health and safety –  but also that of your family and colleagues.

If at any time, as a result of your personal risk assessment, you feel unsafe you must:

Immediately Stop work; make the site safe; inform your manager

If you have not been supplied with the appropriate PPE, preventing you from carrying out the task safely, you must:

Immediately Stop work; make the site safe; inform your manager

At all times (especially whilst in the customers’ premises) apply the appropriate social distancing and hygiene rules. If this cannot be achieved, you must:

Immediately Stop work; make the site safe; inform your manager

The CWU will always support you in putting your safety first and will not tolerate pressure being placed on any member to continue working in circumstances where they believe that their safety is being compromised.

Contact the CWU
The Union remains here to keep you safe and assist you through this difficult time. If you have concerns or need assistance, please contact your local rep or Branch. If you don’t know which Branch you are in you can find out via www.cwu.org/contact-us.

20th May 2020 – Updates on Taking Annual Leave

Following talks with the CWU, managers are now taking a more pragmatic approach.

18th May 2020 – A reminder of the three key points that engineers should follow when working in customers premises.

14th May 2020 – Service Delivery Engineers and Covid 19 – Changes to the provision processes (working inside the premises).

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 the CWU has continued to do all it can, both nationally and locally, to ensure that you are kept as safe as possible.  Things have continued to develop and change quickly and we are once again writing to you as members in Service Delivery as we are acutely aware of the unique challenges you have within your role. You have been keeping in touch with your local Branches and that is fantastic as it has been giving us detailed insight into the challenges that you are facing.

You will have received communications earlier this week from the company entitled `Changes to provision processes (working inside the premises)’ and today further details via the Stop the Clock calls. The CWU National Team (NT) has been consulted on the approach and documentation and  has  sought to ensure that every possible safeguard has been built into the new approach. The information in the briefings relating to the `800’ engineers was challenged by the CWU and we have been informed that the detail was gathered via conversations with you (or some of your colleagues) via Patch Managers and Patch Leads.
The new process sets out a requirement for either a Patch Manager or Patch Lead to `observe’ your understanding of the new processes and this will be carried out with you and confirmation of that recorded in a `formwize’. The CWU has made it clear that we believe that you as an individual should be given and retain a copy of that document to ensure that the observation is carried out correctly.
The CWU has also stressed that we believe that the response from you, as well as customers, may well be different across the UK – given that the approaches of the various administrations are not identical. This may generate questions and concerns and we would encourage you to discuss those with your manager and your local CWU representatives.
There are three areas which must be emphasised and we make no apologies for repeating them in all of our communications to you as we believe they are critical to maximising not just your own health and safety –  but also that of your family and colleagues.

The CWU will always support you in putting your safety first and will not tolerate pressure being placed on any member to continue working in these circumstances.  If the appropriate hygiene materials are not available do not proceed.

1st May 2020 – Openreach Annual Leave and COVID-19

No consultation with the CWU on the changed approach to annual leave within Openreach.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the CWU has been working hard on your behalf to ensure that you and your families remain safe and well. All across Openreach our members, as key workers, have been carrying out fantastic work on behalf of the people of this country to ensure that everyone stays connected, and that especially those who are vulnerable can keep in touch with their loved ones.
Given that undisputed fact, the CWU is appalled at the approach being taken within Openreach on the issue of how you should use your annual leave. This is not an approach that has been rolled out anywhere else across BT Group. In order to be clear, and to state another undisputable fact, there has been no consultation with the CWU on this approach within Openreach. Of course it is important for people to take annual leave and for you to get the rest you deserve in these unprecedented times. However it is unacceptable for the company not to treat you as adults and for it to act in this arbitrary manner – even using bold type to hammer home the point.

What is also very telling is that there is no information whatsoever relating to the following two key questions;

  • What sanctions will be taken against anyone who does not take the specified annual leave by June 2020?
  • What sanctions will be taken against anyone who does not take 50% of their annual leave by September 2020?

The CWU has asked these questions and has not received a response. The fact that these two issues were not covered in the company’s Loop article clearly displays the fact they are hoping no-one asks.
A blanket response that states `we will deal with any escalations or individual cases’ will not wash,  as that puts all the pressure on you and your families once again. The CWU and you as employees would expect the company to consult with the CWU and ensure that any change to processes or policies seeks to avoid the need for that to happen.

Getting the rest you need and the time with your families you deserve is really important. Openreach dictating to you how that should happen, and not working with you to facilitate that happening (unlike any other part of BT Group), is not acceptable. As employees you fully understand the challenges that Openreach, like every other company, faces during these difficult times. The company continually tells you what an exceptional job you are doing –  and that the roles you carry out are `key’ – so why would the same company not work with the CWU and yourselves to look at annual leave and how that is managed?

The CWU does not understand the recent change of approach and tone when dealing with issues like these but we do demand, on your behalf, that things change and that the company treats you – and the CWU as your representative – with the respect that is deserved.

The Union remains here to keep you safe and assist you through this difficult time. If you have concerns or need assistance if at all possible please contact your local rep

9th April 2020 – Openreach – Service Delivery Engineers and Covic 19

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 the CWU has been doing all it can, both nationally and locally, to ensure that you are kept as safe as possible during this public health emergency.  Things are developing very quickly. We took the decision to produce this specific communications for members in Service Delivery as we are aware of the unique challenges you have within your role.   

Entering Premises
Openreach has issued revised working practices for both provision and repair tasks. If you are on a Provision task  you must not enter the customer’s premises, except in specific exceptional circumstances.

The new guidelines are being sent to everyone, are designed to ensure your safety is paramount in all cases, and must be followed rigidly.
If at any time, as a result of your personal risk assessment, you feel unsafe you must:

  • Immediately stop work;  make the site safe;  inform your manager

On Repair tasks, prove service is working to the last accessible external point. If access is still required, and the task is non-appointed, further the task back to the CP.
If access is required on an appointed task, you must follow the strict guidelines and ‘questions to be asked’. Only enter if it is absolutely  necessary and ensure all safety precautions are taken. We cannot over-emphasise that, if you have completed a personal risk assessment and you feel unsafe, you must:

  • Immediately stop work;  make the site safe;  inform your manager

Please ensure that the correct processes are followed in these situations. This is for your safety and others around you.

Social Distancing.
In regards to social distancing, 2 metres absolutely must be adhered too. If you have a specific job and, especially in network solutions, if a task cannot be achieved without coming within 2m, but not physically touching, you must conduct a thorough risk assessment. Figure out a work around, use the ‘step out and step in’ method and come up with engineering ideas that provide safe solutions. If, and only if, this is not possible, then you must ensure the risk assessment has been completed and you come together for as short as period as possible. There are specific safe working guidance in these exceptional circumstances which must be strictly followed.

Vehicle Sharing.
Do not share vehicles at any time, including during breaks. Please use wipes to sanitise and clean any areas that you meet within your vehicle, especially van keys, fuel card, door handles, vehicle controls. Remember to dispose of any wipes correctly. The company should be supplying you with the appropriate PPE; like gloves and wipes/hand wash/hand sanitiser. We know there is a national shortage but patch managers can purchase these locally. Do NOT use another vehicle unless you are certain the previous engineer is not off due to COVID-19.

If an Openreach engineer becomes a suspected COVID-19 case the advice from Public Health England and BT is to secure the van for 72 hours. Openreach has agreed to extend this period of quarantine to 96 hours as an additional precaution. Before the next use, the new driver must use anti-bacterial wipes to clean frequently contacted areas (e.g. steering wheel, door handles etc), the dashboard area and hard surfaces as part of normal good hygiene practice.

The CWU’s position remains clear that if, following an individual risk assessment either prior to or during any work taking place, you believe social distancing or hygiene rules cannot be applied then you must:

  • Immediately stop work
  • Make the site safe
  • Inform your manager

The CWU will always support you in putting your safety first and will not tolerate pressure being placed on any member to continue working in these circumstances. If the appropriate hygiene materials are not available do not proceed.

Contact the CWU. The Union remains here to keep you safe and assist you through this difficult time. If you have any concerns or need assistance please contact your local rep or Branch.
Branch contacts can be found via www.cwu.org/contact-us.

We are here to help. Keep safe. Davie Bowman CWU – Assistant Secretary

8th April 2020 – TO ALL CWU MEMBERS IN OPENREACH LTD

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 the CWU has been doing all it can, both nationally and locally, to ensure that you are kept as safe as possible during this public health emergency.  Things are developing very quickly.

Social Distancing and Hygiene Rules.
Social distancing in line with Government, Public Health England and the HSE guidelines is not optional. In addition, the Welsh Government has now set out additional definitions relating to how this should be applied in the workplace, these include;

·  Minimising the level of interaction
·  Physical barriers
·  Improved hygiene and reminders about the importance of hygiene.
·  Washing hands well for 20 seconds with soap after close contact.
·  Ensuring those with symptoms are not present on the premises. 

As a result of the above changes Openreach has now issued further guidance setting out how social distancing should apply, what additional processes have been put in place and clear instructions relating to individual risk assessments. Some longer duration works, such as re-shelling of a damaged cabinet, will require additional supervision to aid the consistent application of hygiene standards.  The CWU will be discussing with the company how this additional supervision will be applied.
Field members in FND, Northern Ireland and the Chief Engineers organisation (excluding civils) will receive contact from their line manager and be asked to confirm receipt of the new guidelines. Further discussions with Service Delivery and the Civils organisation are planned and further bulletins will be issued.

All these rules apply equally to Openreach’s 3rd party suppliers and any breaches of the appropriate protocols must be reported to Openreach and your local CWU Branch immediately in order to ensure your safety and that of others.

26th March 2020 – Message to our Openreach Members.