“You have made this happen,” CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge told BT branch reps this morning, as she detailed the new agreement bringing agency workers into direct employment.
The deal – a result of the union’s successful Close the Gap campaign – will mean job security, better pay, pension rights and improvements to annual leave, sick pay and other key rights.
If agency workers are hired in the future, BT will no longer use pay between assignment contracts and will commit to equal pay from Day One.
Initially, the main effect of this new deal will be felt in the company’s Consumer Division, but the principles of the agreement will be carried out across the company as a whole.
In her speech this morning, Sally insisted that the credit for this was down to the long-running campaign work of the CWU, which has been fighting for agency worker justice for several years.
Agency workers on pay rates far below BT employees doing the same jobs, and lacking all of the basic rights at work were being exploited, she said.
“For years and years they allowed these people to be exploited,” Sally reminded the audience, adding that both BT and the employing agency, Manpower, had tried to shift responsibility for the inequality.
“So many times we met with senior BT management and they said: ‘It’s Manpower’ and then when we met with Manpower, they said: ‘It’s BT’,” she recalled.
The most recent campaign – Close the Gap – was launched last year and leafletting, petitioning and protesting took place at BT sites right across the country, raising awareness of the injustice far and wide.
Sally told the briefing that this was the reason why this deal has been reached, saying: “This is down to the collective organisation of this union.
“It’s an enormous breakthrough and it should be celebrated.
“You yourselves, as activists, have made this happen,” she told the room.
After detailed presentations from assistant secretary Nigel Cotgrove and T&FS executive member Stephen Albon, a Q&A sessio gave the reps in the audience the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice on aspects of the new agreement.
Commenting on the deal, Lancashire & Cumbria Branch rep Jacqui Stewart said: “I’m an IR rep for the Blackburn and Accrington sites and Manpower workers have been receiving their job offers and coming up and thanking me and the union for this.
“It’s been a great campaign and it will make a real positive difference to these workers in so many ways.”
Pesh Patel, from Midlands No1 Branch was equally enthusiastic, reporting that, at the Sandwell contact centre near Birmingham, “there’s a really good atmosphere there now – it’s really great.”
And from Somerset, Devon & Cornwall Branch rep Sarah Ahern recalled the long years of campaigning by the CWU for this and said that, at her unit in Truro, “people are thrilled – it’s been a long time coming. Some of our Manpower people have been there 10 years.”
Closing the event, Sally told the meeting that the Close the Gap campaign, although it has achieved its industrial aims, “we’re proud of this CWU success and we’re going to celebrate it and use it to recruit new members.”
And politically, the Close the Gap campaign still has some “unfinished business,” Sally pointed out and vowed: “We will pursue the aim of bringing pay between assignment contracts to an end in law.”
CWU victory on BT PBA agency contracts
Telecoms & Financial Services August 9 2018
A major victory has been won in the CWU’s ‘Close the Gap’ campaign with BT finally agreeing to longstanding union demands for an end of what the union has always claimed are exploitative ‘Pay Between Assignment’ (PBA) contracts.
Following detailed talks the company has agreed to the phasing out of PBA contracts by the end of March 2019.
Despite wave after wave of agency conversions in recent years, which have seen more than 800 Manpower employees offered permanent BT contracts, over 1,000 agency employees continue to conduct predominantly call centre roles in the business.
In BT Consumer a resourcing revolution is now underway under which agency workers will have the opportunity to secure a permanent BT contract.
In other lines of business, where there are a few remaining PBA contracts, BT will continue to review their resource plans in conjunction with the CWU.
In addition to every single one of BT Consumer’s current Manpower workforce being offered permanent roles across the Consumer Customer Care operation the business expects to hire 600 new people as part of a wider commitment to answer 100 per cent of customer calls in its UK and Ireland call centres by 2020.
Welcoming both the immediate announcement by BT Consumer – and BT Group’s wider commitment to draw a line under an exploitative agency resourcing model that the union has bitterly opposed from the outset – deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “This is a major shift in BT’s call centre resourcing strategy and vindicates the hard work that has been carried out at every level of the CWU to expose the many injustices that agency workers have faced since their usage became widespread in the early to mid-2000s.
“BT Group’s decision to end the use of PBA contracts in their entirety is fantastic news. There can be absolutely no doubt that tireless CWU campaigning – to expose way these contracts exploit a cunning legal loophole that exempts their holders from hard won rights to equal treatment on pay that came about in 2011 on account of EU legislation – has played a significant part in bringing this change about.”
Assistant secretary Sally Bridge, who has led the CWU’s agency campaigning for more than a decade – spearheading no fewer than four separate campaigns in that period as the precise nature of the injustices faced by agency workers have evolved in an ever changing political and industrial landscape – concludes: “While it’s very welcome that BT is finally doing the right thing by the hard working agency employees on which it has relied for so long, it needs to be remembered that agency injustices, which have become increasingly synonymous with the usage of exploitative PBA contracts, are rife in the wider world of work.
“As such, although our Close the Gap campaign has now achieved its aims within the context of our own membership, there will be no-let up in the CWU’s ongoing and highly successful political campaign for what’s really needed – namely a change in the law that abolishes PBA contracts once and for all.”
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