Sky "we'll leave" threats scupper union vote

Submitted by AWL on 26 February, 2003 - 12:02

By a BECTU member

Outrageous management bullying at Rupert Murdoch's Sky television company has culminated in a vote against union recognition at the firm's Livingston call centre.

Last year, more than 50% of the 466 staff in the Livingston sales centre signed a petition supporting union recognition. By the time a ballot was held more than 100 workers had joined the BECTU union. But, after weeks of intimidation from management, only 47 voted in favour of recognising BECTU, and 277 against.

BECTU had been working to unionise Sky's workforce, including call centre staff at Livingston and Dunfermline, and staff at the Osterley broadcast centre, for some time. When the company refused voluntary recognition, despite a request from a majority of Livingston staff, BECTU applied to the Central Arbitration Committee for statutory recognition.

But management played dirty. In early January, they told staff at both Livingston and Osterley that the company would close down the sites if BECTU won recognition. One BECTU rep was told that if he accepted redundancy, along with a confidentiality clause, he would get a pay-off of £28,800-more than 30 times his statutory entitlement.

The situation got so bad that BECTU had to ask the CAC to postpone the recognition vote because of the level of intimidation. Sky's response to the CAC was to deny that they had threatened to close the Livingston operation. In fact, they stated: "We said 'trade union confrontation and divisive workplace relations may lead Sky to consider alternative operational models, including outsourcing sales operations'." Sounds like closure to us-and, clearly, it sounded like closure to Sky's employees.

The TUC is describing this as one of the worst cases of management intimidation it has seen under the new legislation. BECTU says the Government must legislate "to rectify the shocking fact that there is no proper legal remedy where a company, faced with a recognition campaign, says they would close down if the ballot went the wrong way for them".

The union will continue its campaigns for recognition at Sky's other Scotland call centre in Dunfermline and at the Osterley broadcasting centre. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Morrissey said: "BSkyB may have won this battle, but they haven't won the war. Their staff have the right to be represented by an independent trade union, and we will press on until recognition has been won."

More information from BECTU.

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