Less than 4 months after the first round of bloodletting at the former BT Fleet organisation saw its new private equity owners close 10 garages and make more than 60 redundancies, a further 166 team members have been told the are potentially ‘at risk’ in a new jobs cull.
Under the latest devastating headcount reductions planned for the re-named Rivus Fleet Solutions by its asset management group owners, Aurelius, ‘consultation’ commenced yesterday (Thursday) on a further 62 redundancies of CWU-represented grades across the business.
These include Technicians, Technicians in Charge, receptionists and assistants at no fewer than 22 garages, along with plans to make a further 12 mobile engineers, three accident management engineers and one IT data analyst redundant outside of the garage network;
Shockingly, apprentices fare particularly badly in the current round of management axe-wielding, under proposals that would dispense with the young trainees altogether in the Cardiff, York, Preston, Haydock Park, Manchester and Perth garages, with other losses in Birmingham, Northallerton and Reading.
A full breakdown of the proposed job losses can be viewed in Telecoms Bulletin No. 117/2020
Further adding to a deep sense of gloom and foreboding amongst CWU members across the business, management compounded the bombshell by announcing there will be no pay increase this year.
Rivus has further advised the union that it will shortly be commencing consultation with employees across 14 garages regarding major changes to current shift patterns – claiming that the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on revenue flows has been a significant factor in necessitating the cost-cutting it is making across the business.
The desperate events unfolding at Rivus come just eight months after ownership of the former BT Fleet operation transferred to Aurelius Asset Management on October 1, prior to which BT Group had consistently maintained that Fleet was profitable and that those transferring to Aurelius had ‘nothing to fear’.
CWU assistant secretary Allan Eldred said: “Serious questions need to be asked about the misleading assurances that loyal and often longstanding BT employees were given by BT management when the CWU was disputing the rationale for the sell-off last year.
“Our priority right now, however, is to do everything we possibly can to support our members who have been placed at potential risk of redundancy, and to make sure that the consultation process is as fair and transparent as it can possibly be.
“Apart from challenging the proposed headcount reductions wherever we can, one area we will be looking especially closely at is the seemingly disproportionate targeting of apprentices. We’ve already raised with management the moral imperative of them doing everything they possibly can to fulfil their training commitments to young people who only joined Fleet in the last year or so, and who would naturally have assumed that being taken on by a BT Group company would have meant that they had a secure future with long-term prospects.
“The need for Rivus to do the right thing by apprentices is amplified by the fact that youngsters who have only been in the business for a comparatively short period of time will not qualify for significant redundancy payouts.”
CWU urges voluntary approach wherever possible
The better than statutory redundancy terms – that the CWU ensured survived the transfer from BT Fleet to Rivus – mean those being made compulsorily redundant or volunteering to go will receive 3 weeks pay for each full year of the first 15 years service plus four weeks pay for each full year of service beyond that.
Those payments are subject to an overall cap of 2 years of eligible salary and a minimum payment of 12 weeks – and, during the forthcoming consultation period, the CWU will be doing all it can to ensure that as many of the redundancies as possible are voluntary.
Already Rivus Fleet Solutions management has pledged to mitigate the redundancies in so far as is possible by:
- Only recruiting business-critical roles
- Ensuring that all vacancies are shared with impacted employees on a weekly basis
- Guaranteeing that impacted individuals will be guaranteed an interview for roles they apply for and, where possible, be mapped into suitable roles
- Reducing the numbers of agency workers where possible – though there are currently no agency employees working in any of the areas impacted by potential redundancies.
Allan concludes: “Of course we accept that, for some people, redundancy may present an opportunity they want to take – but that will certainly not be the case for everyone impacted.
“That’s why the CWU will be doing its damnedest to try to ensure that as many of these redundancies are voluntary as they can possibly be.”