23rd April 2021 – Talks resume with Openreach as RPEs notch up 15 days of strike action.
A solid week of industrial action is today (Friday) drawing to a close in Openreach, with the CWU’s small but fiercely loyal membership of repayment project engineers (RPEs) more determined than ever to maintain their battle against the company’s imposed regrading of their role.
Every day since Monday the 170-strong group have maintained highly visible pickets outside Openreach workplaces the length and breadth of the country over the company’s refusal to engage with the union over legitimate concerns that the move creates a dangerous mismatch of responsibilities.
Not since the 1987 national strike has any group of workers anywhere in BT Group felt compelled to make such a decisive stand against management intransigence and belligerence.
And if management had been assuming that RPEs fighting spirit would be starting to wane as the 15th day of RPE industrial action draws to its conclusion, they will have been sorely disappointed!
Indeed, if anything, this week’s five consecutive days of strike action has been marked by spiralling high spirits and an increasing determination to prevail. That mood no doubt influenced the company’s surprise decision earlier this week to resume talks with the union after weeks of stonewalling the CWU calls for meaningful talks.
This afternoon, the union’s Openreach national team had the first of three specially convened meetings with Openreach managing director for strategic infrastructure development , Kim Mears, with a further two meetings scheduled for the early part of next week.
Whether those meetings will provide the basis of a breakthrough that could end an unusually binary dispute remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that Openreach’s pig-headed refusal, to date, to listen to the legitimate concerns of RPEs – who are adamant the regrading detracts from their ability to act as ‘honest brokers’ in complex negotiations with third party organisations – is now causing the company serious embarrassment.
With Openreach now firefighting significant backlogs and growing customer anger over delays to cost-sensitive multi-agency projects, it is becoming harder by the minute for management to maintain its official line is that the industrial action has had little or no impact at all!
Meanwhile, political pressure on the company is now mounting fast, with this week’s picket lines receiving a steady stream of solitarily visits from MPs, Welsh Assembly Members and the leader of Trafford Council, Andrew Western, who turned out to support striking RPEs in Manchester.
March 2021 – Openreach Repayment Project Engineers (RPE) Solidarity Picket Line at Oxford TRS
We are here today to ask you to support our Openreach Repayment Project Engineers (RPE) who are striking over an imposed grading change, which will affect the salaries, annual leave and terms and conditions for people coming into this role.
In addition to this the CWU is in dispute with BT/Openreach on a number of issues that will directly affect your pay, your job security and your terms and conditions so unless things change very soon, we will also be asking you to vote yes in an industrial action ballot.
So please show your support for our RPE engineers today and defend your own pay and conditions by backing your union when the time comes.
24th February 2021 – Openreach Repayment Project Engineers (RPE) 48 hour strike.
As you will be aware, 170 Openreach Repayment Project Engineers will take strike action on Wednesday 24th Feb and Thursday 25th Feb. For many, this will be their first experience of industrial action. We have lots of plans to support them and raise the profile of the dispute.
One thing we want and need your support on, is to let these workers know that although their dispute is small in numbers, it has the support of the whole union and indeed the wider movement.
With this in mind, we are hosting a mass solidarity event via Zoom at 7pm on Wednesday 24th February.
We would like all members to join the call to show solidarity.
Please register via this Zoom link and the event link and passcode will be sent directly to you.
At the event you will hear from speakers across the CWU and wider movement. This is a fantastic opportunity to show our RPE members that they have the support of every single CWU branch, across both constituencies.
14th February 2021 – Openreach Repayment Project Engineers (RPE) 48 hour strike.
The 170 Openreach Repayment Project Engineers (RPE) are set to go on a 48 hour strike in a weeks time after the CWU and BT failed to reach an agreement over the imposition of grading changes, which would affect areas like salaries, annual leave and terms for newcomers.
This is potentially a test case for the CWU, in prepartion for the prospect of wider strike action across all business units within the BT Group, over changes to redundancy terms, compulsory redundancies, office closures and associated job losses.
As per previous announcements, 86% of RPEs have voted YES, on a 94% turnout, to take industrial action. This initial action will take place on Wednesday 24th February and Thursday 25th February 2021.
The vote by the RPEs to strike follows a consultative ballot of CWU members across all of BT. A 70% turnout in that ballot resulted in nearly 98% of members voting in favour of Industrial Action to defend jobs, terms and conditions.