CWU win for BT members living with Covid
19 ‘extremely vulnerable’
breakthrough has today (Monday) been finalised by the union on behalf of
members across BT Group who live with individuals deemed to be at
especially high risk of life-threatening complications if they contract
Ever since the
Government notified 1.8 million people that they should isolate
themselves at home to protect themselves from coronavirus, the CWU has been
pressurising BT to address a glaring inconsistency in its guidance to
staff that left those who are not ‘extremely vulnerable’ themselves, but
who live with loved-ones who are, with an agonising dilemma.
While the company moved
with commendable speed to ensure that all employees positively
identified as being ‘extremely vulnerable’ to Covid 19 have been
either set up for homeworking or granted paid special
leave, public health guidance issued by Ministers made no provision
for healthy individuals living with an ‘extremely vulnerable’
Despite CWU pleas for
both groups to be treated similarly, BT initially insisted it was simply
applying the Government guidelines and that anyone living with a
super-vulnerable person for whom homeworking wasn’t a viable
option should continue to come to work and take extra care to follow
social distancing and hand washing guidance.
further CWU representations to the company - providing poignant examples of
the anguish being caused to those who feel they are taking a daily gamble
of contracting a virus that could represent a death sentence to
‘extremely vulnerable’ loved ones – the problem initially appeared to
have been resolved when BT Group performed a very welcome about-turn.
New guidance agreed with
the union just before the Bank Holiday weekend
categorically stipulated that “any
BT colleague who is unable to attend their normal place of work
without creating undue risk for someone they live with should also stay at
home and self-isolate.
“We’ll support you,” the statement continues, “by continuing to pay you in
full for the days that you need to stay at home during the shielding period
(as defined in official guidance)” and “not counting this time as
Yet over the Bank
Holiday weekend the situation descended into confusion after employees were
issued with different and completely contradictory guidelines which
comprehensively undermined the spirit of that agreement.
Throughout the course of
last week, CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr and assistant secretary
Dave Jukes had a series of emergency conference calls with BT Group in
which they robustly challenged the company’s backtracking – pointing out
that the inexplicable about-turn had returned a number of Openreach to the
invidious situation they had been in prior to the earlier apparent
As a direct result of those talks, this morning a new
policy was finally agreed which addresses all the union’s key concerns.
Welcoming BT Group’s
significant policy shift, CWU assistant secretary Dave Jukes said: “This is
an important step forward, and one that the CWU has championed vociferously
because, despite the huge strides made across BT Group to set up as many
people as possible for homeworking, that simply isn’t possible for everyone
– including, of course, field engineers in Openreach.
“Two of the cases most
recently flagged up to the company involved just such members – both
of whom have children with serious underlying health issues – but other cases
flagged up previously involved members with elderly and infirm live-in
relatives who had also been identified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ by the
Deputy general secretary
Andy Kerr concludes: “It’s hard to imagine the relief that these members
must be feeling today on account of BT’s belated recognition that
Government guidelines can sometimes fail to cover all eventualities.
“I’d like to thank all
the branches that escalated the examples to headquarters that enabled the
CWU to persuade the company to change its mind and bring this matter to a
Contact the CWU
The Union remains here
to keep you safe and assist you through this difficult time. If you have
concerns or need assistance please contact your local rep or Branch. If you
don’t know which Branch you are in you can find out via www.cwu.org/contact-us.
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