Pressure mounts on Capita over Bury staff betrayal 

Telecoms & Financial Services, Capita 

Wednesday 14th July 2021

Simultaneous protests have taken place in London and Bury to intensify pressure on Capita to deliver genuine options for North West employees who are convinced they face redundancy on account of the impending closure of their call centre.

Despite Capita’s insistence that the planned axing of its Bury contact centre in September doesn’t constitute a redundancy situation because options open to displaced employees include transferring with their present jobs to another site in Preston Brook, the stark reality is that the notoriously difficult 70-mile round road trip with no good public transport options would render this impossible for most.

On Monday that  message was driven home once again by CWU demonstrators outside Capita’s central London headquarters as well as the threatened Bury site  – all amid a wider groundswell of support for the Tesco Mobile contact workers impacted who’ve already won high profile backing from Manchester Metro Mayor, Andy Burnham.

A fortnight ago, attending the last big protest in support of Capita’s Bury workforce in person,  the  Labour Greater Manchester supremo hit out  a the “massive loss to the local economy” – urging both “Capita and Tesco Mobile to work constructively with the CWU, the local council and myself to find a solution that keeps the jobs in Bury.”

Subsequently Andy Burnham was invited to a meeting with the company, where the company outlined that redundancy is not the first option and that they have committed to redeployment. They have since reaffirmed that  redeployment principles have been agreed and those who can’t travel to Preston Brook will be redeployed into other North West Capita contracts on-site and working from home roles in other Capita contracts where there are vacancies.

As of today (Wednesday), however, the company accepts that details of vacancies have not yet been made available to staff, but insists “that is due to not being able to start the one-to-ones until this week – and therefore not being able to match skill sets and requirements etc.”

Yet with the announced closure date of September 30 fast approaching– and employees who cannot transfer to Preston Brook still unclear as to whether they will still have a job in just over two months time – feedback to the union from members reveals that a deep sense of unease and foreboding is taking hold.

As such, the CWU is continuing to press management on a series of union counter-proposals to the current Bury closure plan.

Recognising that Capita’s lease on the current site is drawing to a close, these focus on:

  • Increasing opportunities for displaced workers to continue working on the Tesco Mobile contract on a homeworking basis – in effect allowing many to continue to work the way they have successfully throughout the pandemic.  Whilst Capita have responded to CWU counter proposals to increase the opportunity for home working by approximately 30 this does not mitigate the impact of a high level of potential redundancies.
  • A proposal that the company should work with the local Council and Mayor’s office to open a new ‘hub’ site in Bury locality for those employees who simply cannot work from home
  • The extension of an Assisted Travel Costs Programme for those current based in Bury who could logistically commute to Preston Brook. At present the company is offering compensatory payments for three months – but the CWU believes that if the qualifying period for those payments was  extended to six months that could help facilitate the transition for more individuals
  • Enhancements to redundancy payments.

Newly elected CWU national officer for Capita, Tracey Fussey said: “While it’s fair to say that we’ve made small progress on the number of Bury-based  employees  to whom the homeworking option  could be extended,  this doesn’t go nearly far enough given the scale of the problem.

“Ultimately we still believe that what is needed to prevent large scale job losses in Bury is the opening of a new hub site in the town for those who simply cannot work from home – along with a raising of 25% ceiling on the number of homeworking roles across the Capita Tesco Mobile partnership that Capita is still currently insisting on.”

Full details of management’s current position is contained in Capita Tesco Mobile Members’ Bulletin No.135/2021 – but in essence the company is currently suggesting that all homeworking roles will be offered to top-performing employees in Bury. Although that is likely to safeguard the jobs of around 30 additional members of the Bury workforce, that comes at the cost of removing the option of homeworking for staff in Preston Brook, and still leaves hundred s vulnerable in Bury.

Speaking at Monday’s protest in Bury, CWU North West regional secretary Carl Webb – who has helped spearhead the union’s opposition to Capita’s proposed contact centre closure from the outset – stressed: “The fact is there’s no way on earth that the vast majority of staff here can move to Preston Brook, and Capita knows that full well, whatever it’s saying in public.”

Tracey concludes:  “The branch and the region have been fantastic, reaching out to the local community to explain what this closure plan could mean in practice unless credible redeployment options are revealed to the workforce soon.

“They’ve engaged with local politicians – right the way from local councillors to Andy Burnham – and it’s been a really sterling effort in terms of maintain pressure on the company and letting our beleaguered members in Bury know that they have the full support of the CWU.”

Posted: 19th July 2021

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