Over the past two weeks, directors in Openreach have communicated their business unit’s strategy for the next 3 to 5 years which has included announcements on long-term or “strategic” locations. There have been no details provided yet as to which teams/functions will be based at each location or any timescales as to when any employees not currently based at the locations will be consulted about their situation. What has been said is that from now on recruitment will only be to these locations.
Prospect was not consulted on the choice of locations before they were announced and in some cases, only received an advanced copy of the email communication a few hours before it was issued. An overview of the CFU’s location strategy has not been provided. The Prospect Openreach Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) is therefore pulling together a map of locations for each unit to share with members so that you can see what the overall picture for the CFU looks like.
As members will be aware, Gavin Patterson announced BT Group’s intention to rationalise its footprint from around 300 locations to 30 back in 2018 and Philip Jansen has since reconfirmed the company’s commitment to enacting this under the Better Workplace Programme. However, the IRC is aware that the announcements in Openreach may have come as a shock to members and many of you are feeling worried and anxious about your future employment.
Members who are not currently based within a reasonable travelling distance of a long-term location for their unit/team are in an undeniably difficult position. The business has said that there will be no immediate change for employees and that it is making these announcements now in order to give individuals plenty of time to consider their options. However, it is very difficult for members to make decisions when they do not have the full information. It would be wrong for the IRC to tell members not to worry because of the extremely long timeframe which has been given for units/teams to become fully based at the strategic locations because it is likely that some members will face changes sooner than others with closures of old buildings and the opening up of new buildings as part of the Better Workplace Programme. Business units/teams may also take the opportunity to impose changes to locations through any operational reorganisations/restructures which take place in future.
Prospect’s BT Committee is engaged in consultation with Group on the Better Workplace Programme and any building closures/moves are being dealt with at that level. Openreach’s business units will continue to consult with the Prospect Openreach IRC when changes are instigated at that level. The IRC met with Kevin Brady last week and reiterated that we expect this to be done with plenty of time for the union to respond to proposals.
Despite the business’s exclusion of both unions in the decision-making process, the IRC fully intends to challenge the business units on the rationales. We will need members help to do this and will be in touch to set out how we propose to gather your feedback.
One of the main queries members will inevitably have is whether they will be able to become permanent homeworkers if they are not based in or near a strategic location, particularly as lockdown has proved that the majority of desk-based roles can be carried out as effectively from home as from an office. Previously, Openreach has been clear that it believes co-location is the best way for teams to work most effectively together and this has been reconfirmed in the recent announcements made. Some business units have also made the point of saying new homeworking roles will not be created (although they haven’t gone as far as saying that current homeworkers will have this status revoked. This will inevitably have to be reviewed on a case by case basis due to the variety of reasons someone may need to work from home, e.g. due to a medical condition, disability or caring responsibilities). The IRC hopes that in light of enforced lockdown, a greater flexibility will be shown in terms of how much time employees will be required to spend at the strategic locations but that will come out during consultation. At this stage, Openreach, nor BT Group, has given any indication that is intends to change its position on co-location.
If a strategic location is not within a reasonable travelling distance of where you are currently based then you shouldn’t be forced to move. However, if you are not within a reasonable travelling distance of any Openreach strategic location then of course, redeployment opportunities within the CFU will be limited. It would be wise to start considering your options. Please contact the union’s help desk (details at the bottom of this email) if you would like to talk these through with someone.
Members will also now be aware that an Openreach-wide voluntary paid leaver (VPL) scheme will open for all desk-based staff (Managers and Team Members) in Openreach next week. The offer is based on standard VPL terms.
Remember, the Openreach IRC is here to represent your interests through consultations and will advise and support you through any changes. However, we need to know and understand your concerns first so that we can make strong and pertinent representations to the business. Please contact a member of the IRC or email email@example.com to let us know your thoughts on the announcements.
Please continue to follow us on Workplace at https://openreach.workplace.com/groups/1404567416378943/