By Maria Exall, CWU executive, personal capacity
Engineers working for BT's Customer Service division have voted 9 to 1 against a contractual, performance related bonus scheme. The consultative ballot had a 72% turnout, and echoed the vote of Communication Workers Union delegates at January's special conference which rejected BT's "Self Motivated Teams" scheme.
The consultation procedure is the final stage in a process of negotiations that has taken more than two years. All members affected have had the opportunity to participate in a trial. After experiencing the way the scheme operates, they have said no!
The CWU Executive has called for the withdrawal of the "voluntary" SMT scheme that was hastily introduced by management, without agreement, after the special conference rejected the SMT package. Some members have signed up already, but the majority have kept out, despite management's promises and threats. The high level of misinformation from management about the new scheme, and coercion to take part, including threats to withdraw overtime from people who do not join, shows how desperate management are to rescue their pet project.
The CWU Broad Left-dominated executive wanted originally to introduce SMT, and recommended acceptance of the package. Now, following the special conference and ballot result, they are mandated to oppose it.
The union must go on the offensive on the issue of more pay for field engineers affected by the SMT proposals. A claim to upgrade all engineers has been proposed by some branches as a way to unite the workforce on a positive agenda.
The danger is that the massive resistance to SMT will be negotiated away by modifications to the current SMT scheme. Members have made it quite clear that they think SMT is unacceptable because it is unfair, stressful and divisive. It is difficult to see how it can be made acceptable. A union claim for upgrading means that we go into a fight on SMT with something to gain.
A branch forum has been held on SMT, and the deadline for calling industrial action has been set for February 25th. Members need to know that the union is prepared to lead a fight on their behalf. Management propaganda that SMT is here to stay will come true if we do not take action to get rid of it. What is at stake is the future of pay in BT. If a performance related bonus scheme does come in within the Customer Service engineering workforce (16,000 people) it will be a green light for further schemes.
The union must fight!