Let’s build on our Close the Gap victory

Telecoms & Financial Services 

“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.”