North East Branch, report on a week at Bournemouth’s International Convention Centre, the venue for this year’s CWU Annual Conference 2017:
After along week away it is good to get back home to our city region and back into the swing of our daily workloads.
Our delegates Trevor Davison, Peter Sharrocks, Jean Sharrocks, Barrie Jenkins, John Blevins, Viv Heys, Ian Mattison and Dave Mitchell,(Dave Mitchell was at conference as an SOC official), gave up their weekend and family life to attend and represent the branch and take part in conference during the week.
This year we didn’t send any new people or our youth officer who was unavailable for conference this year.
Barrie left conference early to attend and represent the branch at the recent Workers Memorial event in Hartlepool where the branch laid a floral wreath on 28th April.
Jean our equality officer and woman’s officer was very active at general conference with moving and supporting several motions, amongst them was pensions for women and abortion rights. Other debates during the week ranged from voting rights for retired members, support and representation for young workers, supporting mental health issues, banning the s## newspaper, fighting to protect pensions, equal pay rights for part timers, the gig economy, workers rights and safety at work to name a few.
Follow the links for full report from the voice www.cwu.org/media/publications/voice/voice-extra-mayjune-2017/rushed-pension-changes-need-rethinking/
Former union officials, Billy Hayes (former general secretary) and Pat O’Hara (former president) and Glynis Winestein, where among the 8 which received their honorary membership at a special event after conference.
Due to the continuing illness of Dave Ward General Secretary, deputy Tony Kearns took the reins for conference and certainly didn’t look out of place over the week, conference sent best wishes to Dave.
General Conference: – Labour motion carried unanimously
“A general election no other,” was how acting general secretary Tony Kearns opened his speech to conference this afternoon.
Moving an emergency NEC motion committing the union to campaign for a Labour victory in next month’s general election, Tony told delegates that the fight for a Labour government is “up to you, and up to us all.
“Comrades, there is a choice to make,” he continued, adding: “This election will define politics for a generation.”
In a powerful address, the senior deputy general secretary warned that another Conservative government would result in a “race to the bottom, a low-skilled and poorly paid workforce in a country which would be an offshore tax haven with no public services.”
That would be “the shape of things to come unless we stop it,” he added, and then contrasted the Conservatives’ pro-big business agenda with the Labour Party’s people-first programme.
“We have to fight for true Labour values – for a party on the side of the people,” Tony insisted, pointing to the party’s detailed policy agenda.
He highlighted Labour pledges to re nationalise Royal Mail and rail, to invest in rebuilding our industry and restore domestic manufacturing, to build the council housing that the people need, end to privatisation of the NHS, end rough-sleeping by 2020, and Tony also set out Labour’s New Deal for workers, including restoration of union rights, a £10 per hour minimum wage, and the abolition of zero-hour contracts.
“It’s not going to be easy, but Corbyn has opened the door and we need to march through,” he explained.
“Whether Labour can win is not down to the opinion polls, it’s down to you, down to us. Do we want a different country? As soon as conference closes, it’s time for all of us to get out there, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, and doing everything we possibly can to try to persuade as many people as possible people to vote Labour.”
Mersey delegate Brian Kenny seconded the motion, making the point that “there’s never been a more important time for this union to be campaigning and fighting for a Labour government.”
The Conservatives had relentlessly attacked working class people, he continued, warning that “if Theresa May returns again as Prime Minister, these attacks will only get worse.
“Everyone in this room knows this election campaign isn’t going to be easy – but if everyone of us leaves this conference and vows to work hard and persuade people to vote Labour, then we could achieve a victory.”
Several other speakers came to the rostrum to add their staunch support for the NEC motion, with not one single speaker opposing it.
And when CWU president Beryl Shepherd called the vote, every delegate raised their hands to formally commit the union to the fight for a Labour victory.
T&FS Conference Motion: – Fight continues to address BT performance management woes
There was overwhelming support for a motion calling for a continuation of efforts to eradicate performance management (PM) in BT at day two of the telecoms conference. Conference praised the hard work of the national team in supporting the fight to abolish the ‘punitive’ and ‘counter-productive’ system that places unnecessary stress on members leading to a decline in their health and well-being.
Mark Elwen, West Yorkshire Branch moving the proposition, explained the devastating impact of PM where it “de-motivates, leads to short-cuts and worst performance.”
“We knew this was going to be difficult, not a single battle but a long campaign” acknowledged Mark. The importance of increasing awareness to reinforce aims was stressed.
“We must remind members and BT of our aim. This needs to be reminded at every opportunity, every notice board, and every newsletter…let’s give performance management the red card,” Mark continued.
“If things do not continue to improve, then we will take industrial action and we will not shy away from that. We need complete change,” he warned.
Despite progress made in Openreach, developments in BT Consumer, Business and VVS paint a different story. Jackie Stewart, Lancs & Cumbria Branch highlighted unachievable targets set by managers and the lack of support and coaching given to new employees put on performance plans.
Erin Brett, Mersey reinforced a contribution made at an earlier debate on the impact of PM on younger workers claiming, “They have a terrible impact on members health and well-being”.
Bobby Kelly from Scotland No 1 opposed the motion saying, “It was wrong to carry at the expense of the motions that follow it.”
He said the motion passed on performance management last year has not made a difference to those working in BT Business, Consumer or VVS.
Winston Richards, Greater London Combined, added that PM was being used to bully and harass staff. He called for greater fairness in the procedures and for a proportionality break-down of reports to prevent discrimination.
Supporting the motion, Dave Jukes for the TFSE concluded: “The company has to start trusting the employees,” adding that “we can achieve anything we put our mind to and still have the ability to take industrial action if that’s necessary.”
Follow the link for the voice report on Performance Management www.cwu.org/media/publications/voice/voice-extra-mayjune-2017/fight-continues-to-address-bt-performance-management-woes/
This year as a branch we submitted our full allocation of motions which was 4. The motions all done well with 1 accepted and the other 3 where all carried unanimously. All 3 generated some very good debate. All motions are listed below with the officer that moved them.
The Motions that were moved by the North East Branch
Motion 56 this motion was accepted by the TFS
Conference recognises that people in the BTTC and AJS programme should have access to all job opportunities within BT. It appears, however that Retained Sites, set up during the Working Together programme do not have equal status with Centres of Excellence resulting in job opportunities being missed.
Conference therefore instructs the incoming T&FSE to reaffirm with BT that Retained Sites have the same status as Centres of Excellence thereby maximising all job opportunities for our members.
Motion 90 moved by Trevor Davison
Conference recognises that the special leave granted for bereavement, whether that is for a family member or a friend, is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. It appears that Managers are not exercising their discretion in what is already a very stressful time.
Conference therefore instructs the incoming T&FSE to open discussions with BT to address this unfair practice and to ensure that the decision to grant this leave is “at the Managers discretion” and not being driven by operational needs.
Please follow the link for more details and report from the voice www.cwu.org/media/publications/voice/voice-extra-mayjune-2017/bruised-in-bereavement/
Motion 42 moved by Viv Heys
Conference recognises that a line Managers role is to support and assist their people with regard to their health and wellbeing and manage them within the procedures both fairly and consistently. It appears however that Managers are not able to exercise their discretion when it comes to the wording of sick absence contact letters, specifically the one sent by the second line Manager, known as the “Tier 2 review” letter.
This letter takes no cognisance of the circumstances and reason for why the person is absent from the workplace and the wording can and does add to the distress of people and their families who may already be going through a very tough time.
Conference therefore instructs the incoming T&FSE to open discussions with BT to change the wording in the letter to reflect one of BT’s 3 shared values, Personal, which states to come across as human beings and show we understand and care.
Motion 84 moved by Peter Sharrocks
Conference recognises that Fact Finding interviews can be very stressful for our members. At the 2013 T&FS Conference Prop 42 was carried unanimously which called for a change in the Fact-Finding process to allow an individual to be accompanied by a CWU rep at that meeting. There has been no report from the Executive as to the outcome of any discussions and the process remains unchanged.
Conference therefore instructs the, I/C T&FSE to immediately enter discussions with BT to change the Fact-Finding process which would then allow individuals to be accompanied at this meeting.
Full reports available in the voice from the TFS conference can which be found at the following link. www.cwu.org/media/publications/voice/voice-extra/
Some Fringe Meeting Topics: Health & Safety Mental Health Awareness
Government Has Proof That Work Pressures Can Cause Suicide
Despite warnings from Trade Unions, mental health charities and academics, the Government continues to promote polices which damage work-life balance, causes severe stress and anxiety; and can lead to suicide!
We work the longest hours, have the fewest holidays and suffer the most stress at work than any other European country.
The government though its Office of National Statistics is fully aware of this situation, yet this Tory Government clambers for more working hours, is considering the removal of statutory sick pay, minimal annual leave rules, and the obligations upon employers to provide holiday pay and sick pay. Furthermore, irregular work patterns caused by zero-hours contracts and security of work issues add to the stresses that most working people now have to cope with.
A perfect example being of Government minister Liam Fox’s recent statement that workers’ rights are keeping generations of workers unemployed and that:
“Political objections must be overridden. It is too difficult to hire and fire, and too expensive to take on new employees. It is intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable while output and employment are clearly cyclical.”
The ONS report, both erroneously and appropriately entitled ‘Suicide by Occupation in England: 2011 to 2015’, analyses deaths from suicide in different occupational groups for people aged 20 to 64 years, based on deaths registered in England between 2011 and 2015.
Dave Joyce, CWU’s National Health, Safety & Environment Officer comments on the ONS report into suicide levers in this country, in his latest letter to CWU branches (LTB175/17):
Suicide is the leading cause of death in England and the UK in adults below the age of 50 and past research shows that some occupations are at particularly high risk. This new report describes recent analysis of deaths from suicide in different occupational groups among those aged 20 to 64 years. Such analysis can inform targeted suicide prevention measures and provide a broader understanding of influences on suicide.
Therefore this report will be of interest to Union Officials throughout the Union. The new report contains quite detailed occupational breakdowns for many types of jobs and sectors both for male and female workers. It shows that there are clear links between work and the risk of suicide which makes it a significant issue for Trade Unions.
The report also demolishes a lot of stereotypes and shows that suicide is more common among low paid or manual workers. For instance, individuals working in roles as managers, directors and senior officials – the highest paid occupation group – had the lowest risk of suicide.
Among corporate managers and directors, the risk of suicide was more than 70% lower for both sexes. Contrasting that were low skilled, low paid workers such as male labourers, particularly those working in construction, who had a three times higher risk of suicide than the national average.
ONS Report’s Main points
There were 18,998 suicides in men and women aged between 20 and 64 years between 2011 and 2015, which constitutes a rate of around 12 deaths for every 100,000 people per year; for around 7 in 10 (13,232) of these suicides, an occupation was provided at the time of death registration. (Click the pic below to download the full report)
* Males working in the lowest-skilled occupations had a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average; the risk among males in skilled trades was 35% higher.
* The risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, was 3 times higher than the male national average.
* For males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average.
* The risk of suicide was elevated for that in culture, media and sport occupations for males (20% higher than the male average) and females (69% higher); risk was highest among those working in artistic, literary and media occupations.
* For females, the risk of suicide among health professionals was 24% higher than the female national average; this is largely explained by high suicide risk among female nurses.
* Male and female carers had a risk of suicide that was almost twice the national average.
* Females within the teaching and education profession had a lower risk of suicide but specifically for primary and nursery schoolteachers there was evidence of an elevated risk.
* Individuals working in roles as managers, directors and senior officials – the highest paid occupation group – had the lowest risk of suicide. Among corporate managers and directors, the risk of suicide was more than 70% lower for both sexes.
In closing it was along week but I think the branch have again helped set some of the policies of the union moving forward some will be in society, some will fall into politics and the others will hopefully improve our members working lives.
Can I take this opportunity to thank the delegates for their time effort and support over the week and to Viv for her help in sorting out the accommodation? Thanks also to Matthew Proud and Michelle (Mitzi) Richardson for manning the fort while we were at conference.