T&FS Conference 2024 – Day Three

Telecoms & Financial Services, Union Matters

An emotional farewell

On the final day of T&FS Conference, delegates heard an emotional farewell speech from retiring deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.

Following a surprise video created by the union’s communications department which featured reminisces from general secretary Dave Ward which honoured his “incredible lifelong contribution” to the union, T&FS chair Karen Rose also discussed her affection for Andy to delegates.

Karen – who now steps down as T&FS chair to succeed Andy as DGS – told conference: “it has been more than twenty years since I started working with you, and despite the fact you have a certain brusqueness, you are one of the most decent people I have ever met.

“Your determination to get the job done is relentless, and even in the past few months when your health has not been great you have shown such unwavering commitment to our members.

“At your core is a centre of absolute decency. You’re a true trade unionist, your values are faultless, you are a socialist and you’ll always do the right thing for people, whether a friend or foe.”

Opening his emotional speech, Andy described how he first went on strike at his grammar school in 1973, against “masochistic” teachers.

After being disciplined for it with a co-strike leader, he got “six of the belt” before being expelled.

He described leaving school and joining the union in summer 1975, where he quickly became a rep, saying that it was probably “the happiest role he ever had in the union – on the tools, looking after my guys, making sure they got the best.”

Describing his rise through the union, his mentors who inspired him and encouraged him to fight harder, and his pride in his family, who sustained him, Andy highlighted the need for the union to focus on the new generation coming through.

“There have been some tremendous first-time speakers at conference this week, young people who have a tremendous future in this union.

“We need to make sure that these people are encouraged as much as possible, that they are backed to the hilt.”

Quoting the old adage that “this, too, shall pass,” Andy remembered “every great moment” he had while fighting for the workers that belonged to the CWU, and wished everyone strength for the fights of the future.

Following a roaring standing ovation, Karen also announced that a Post Office branch secretary had written a poem for Andy, which she read out to applause.

A Little Respect

Delegates also held a discussion on the state of workplace respect, particularly to do with micro-management and bullying on the job.

Moving a motion which criticised a “hostile and paranoid work environment” that “rogue managers” have been able to create due to the Customer Delivery Rate (CDR) metric in Openreach, Ste Donald from Mersey Amal branch described how managers can threaten to manage people “out of the business in 12 weeks” if they don’t meet any of their immediate demands. Warning that workers have told him that they have been threatened to “keep up their CDR or they’re gone”, he likened the scheme to the “bad old days” of performance management.

Discussing a motion about the excessive culture of micromanagement – and the bullying that emerges from it – South East Central delegate Dave Kaufman said: “We’re seeing a drip effect around managers who can’t help themselves falling into the bad behaviours of bullying. “We’re going to see more members going off with sick, stress, depression, because that is the way management is pushing them,” he said.

Dave said that managers had told him they had been put on a performance league table, where if they do not hit a certain CDR level, don’t get a bonus, or they themselves are put “on a plan.”

Executive member Andy Mercer also described the Genesys system at Openreach and its “worrying transition” into an “overt surveillance tool.”

“Our members find themselves under costly scrutiny,” he warned. “They are monitored and evaluated from their core metrics to even their comfort breaks.”

Andy warned the company that “the privacy of our members is non-negotiable” and that it is “unacceptable” to “breed mistrust, anxiety and fear” among employees.

“How can Openreach expect our members to feel respected or well when they’re being watched, judged and can be ultimately penalised for factors often beyond their control?”

Motions were also passed on the need to professionalise and improve the current state of vehicle maintenance services at BT Group, and to develop training and handover processes for drivers allocated Electric Vehicles (EVs) while on the job.