Outsourced VM workers join CWU en-masse

Telecoms & Financial Services

Furious former Virgin Media workers who were recently outsourced to Sitel have been joining the union in droves after being told that terms and conditions they thought were protected under TUPE rules are reverting to the statutory minimum.

While only a comparatively small number of the TUPE’d group – all based at VM’s Bellshill site in Glasgow  – were members of the CWU at the time of their transfer on August 1, the union has been vigorously fighting their corner and now enjoys near blanket membership.

The stampede to join the union began when, shortly after the TUPE transfer,

Sitel seized upon a clause in transferees’ employment contracts to claim that redundancy, sick pay and annual leave entitlements that have survived previous TUPE situations were ‘not contractual’ – and therefore no longer valid.

The CWU disputes this – believing that the entitlements, some of which date right back to Telewest contracts, have acquired contractual status by virtue of  ‘custom and practice’.

Immediately the union helped the staff submit a collective grievance and, following its initial rejection by management, an appeal was lodged in tandem with an Employment Tribunal (ET) claim and an associated application for ‘conciliation’ by ACAS to ensure the complaint is formalised before being deemed to have ‘timed out’.

Assistant secretary John East explains: “At the time of writing we are awaiting the result of both our appeal and ACAS’s attempt at conciliation – but if Sitel hasn’t changed its tune, we’ll then be proceeding with an ET and possibly a case in the Sheriff’s Court, which deals with civil disputes in Scotland.

“The CWU is determined to hold Sitel to account for its cynical attempt to sidestep the spirit of TUPE protections for transferring workers – and it’s gratifying to see the extent to which our efforts are being appreciated by a workforce which has now joined the union en-masse.”

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