CWU members at an earlier protest against Branson – By Tim Lezard More than 100 planners have put their name to a collective grievance against Virgin Media. The company, which last year de-recognised the CWU, has responded by dismissing the legitimacy …

Walton Pantland Europe, UK, CWU, UK unions,
CWU members at an earlier protest against Branson

CWU members at an earlier protest against Branson

– By Tim Lezard

More than 100 planners have put their name to a collective grievance against Virgin Media.

The company, which last year de-recognised the CWU, has responded by dismissing the legitimacy of the grievance – a move the CWU describes as “an astonishing show of contempt for the legitimately expressed concerns of its own workforce”. The union also says the company has violated its own procedures for dispute resolution.

The grievance came about after the company’s last year announced that major aspects of the planning role are to be outsourced.

Many employees are deeply concerned about the profound impact the move will have on individuals. Faced with the failure of Virgin Media’s internal ‘Voice Forum’ to speak out in defence of the interests of employees, they turned en-masse to the CWU for assistance.

The idea of submitting a collective grievance emerged during a well attended conference call of CWU members – and, as word got round, the union has been inundated with requests from individuals for their names to be added to the protest.

CWU assistant secretary John East said:

“There were about 25 members on the conference call and they unanimously decided they wanted to submit a grievance. In response, I circulated the wording amongst our membership and, in less than a week, 104 people had contacted the union saying they wished to be included. This number grew to 120 by the time Virgin refused to accept the grievance. Tellingly, this includes a number of people who aren’t currently CWU members.”

Under Virgin Media’s proposals, planners will become desk-based – with those parts of their job requiring work in the field being transferred to third-party contractors. It is forecast that more than 70 planners will become surplus as a result and, in addition, those with company-provided vehicles will lose them.

CWU members in some planning offices decided they wanted to lodge a separate collective grievance about the removal of their company cars with no compensation. Again this has attracted mass support from planners, members and non-members alike.
Virgin Media also intends to “rationalise” the number of planning offices, leading to over 30 office closures. This means that, in addition to having their roles changed completely, many planners will have dramatically increased journeys just when their vehicles have been withdrawn!

John East said:

“When Virgin Media derecognised the CWU in the Access Field work area, they said ‘trust us, you do not need a union’. Well, by their actions they are disproving that day by day and exposing themselves as not just anti-union, but anti-worker.

“That same contemptuous approach to loyal employees has been displayed once again by Virgin Media’s refusal to recognise that more than 100 of its employees have had the courage to stand together and ask, in an absolutely reasonable way, for their legitimate concerns to be listened to.

“If proof was needed as to why employees in Virgin Media need the protection of a trade union that has the membership strength to force the recognition issue, there cannot be a better example than this.

“Anyone within Virgin Media – and especially non-CWU members amongst the planning workforce – should take note of the inability of Virgin Media’s internal ‘Voice’ employee forum to do anything with regards to negotiating on the issues facing planners.

“If enough people joined the CWU without delay the company would be legally forced to engage with employees’ concerns instead of being able to ride roughshod over whatever section of the workforce it chooses to attack next.”

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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