Memorandum submitted by Cable & Wireless
Cable & Wireless plc welcomes the opportunity
to respond to the Joint Committee on Human Rights' inquiry. The
application of human rights is taken seriously by Cable &
Wireless, which operates through two separate operating unitsWorldwide
The evidence submitted to the Committee on 1 May
2009 specifically highlights Cable & Wireless with regard
to "freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively".
Therefore it is this aspect of the International Labour Organisation
(ILO) Convention which this response focuses on.
The wider principles of Human Rights are outlined
in the recently revised Cable & Wireless Ethics Policy which
replaces the Code of Ethics and Business Principles previously
referred to in the Committee's evidence. This is available at:
The Communications Workers Union (CWU) applied
for statutory union recognition in C&W Field Services in May
2007. C&W Field Services is part of the Cable & Wireless
Worldwide operating unit. It comprised approx 360 employees
representing 7% of Worldwide's total 5,000 employees.
Following the CWU's application, the Central
Arbitration Committee (CAC) designated the Field Service team
as an "appropriate bargaining unit" for union recognition.
C&W Worldwide decided to challenge this decision due to the
relatively small size of the unit and concerns about potential
The process was therefore delayed for a few
months whilst a Judicial Review hearing reviewed whether the CAC's
interpretation of an "appropriate bargaining unit" could
lead to fragmentation within the Field Services team. The CAC
decision was upheld and on 4 April 2008, the CAC ordered
a workforce ballot as the best way to decide the most appropriate
form of colleague representation.
The Burke Group (TBG) referred to in the evidence
submitted to the Committee, was engaged by Cable & Wireless
to advise on the statutory recognition process as it was unfamiliar
to Cable & Wireless. TBG helped Cable & Wireless to implement
a fact-based approach to the ballotenabling managers to
inform their teams about union recognition and what it would mean
The Burke Group did not interface directly with
employees in the bargaining unit but were engaged to support the
Cable & Wireless Worldwide had two primary
concerns re the bid for union recognition. Firstly that separate
collective bargaining would duplicate and undermine the good work
being carried out by our Employee Consultation Forum (ECF). Secondly,
that union recognition represents the view of union members only,
not all employees, whereas the ECF represents all employees (whether
union members or not).
Both C&W and the CWU had equal access to
colleagues during the 20 day ballot process. The turnout
for the vote was very high92% of Field Services employees
voted. The vote was substantially against the CWU77% voted
against the CWU being assigned the rights to negotiate their pay,
working hours and holidays.
Cable & Wireless is committed to the principles
of collective workplace representation. Our preference is to represent
colleagues' views through our in-house consultative bodythe
Employee Consultation Forum (ECF) rather than through union recognition.
The ECF represents everyone across the business and is driven
by elected colleagues representing the views of their peers.
The business is committed to the ECF because
it is direct, inclusive and built upon the principle of mutual
interest whilst at the same time not conflicting with the right
of individual colleagues to hold union membership. We believe
this is the best way to create a positive culture in our organisation
which will enable our colleagues to deliver great service to our
The Cable & Wireless ECF was formally established
15 years ago to represent the views and interests of all
employees in Cable & Wireless. The company is legally required
to, and wants to, inform and consult the ECF on a range of business,
employment and organisational matters. Our ECF's constitution
makes clear, both in letter and practice, that its activities
go way beyond this statutory minimum.
The ECF gives senior managers the opportunity
to get feedback and take account of ECF views before implementing
business changes. It is also an important forum for ECF delegates
to represent the opinions and concerns of employees.
There are 18 ECF delegates, each representing
employees in a discrete constituency. The constituency map is
constantly changing to ensure that ECF keeps abreast of the changes
in the organisation.
The ECF has successfully challenged a number
of business-driven changes resulting in a better outcome for employees,
and is able to put forward its own proposals on how to make Cable
& Wireless a better place to work through:
Regular meetings with Exec/Leadership
Extraordinary meetings at either side's
Key Health & Safety legal responsibility.
Detailed participation in working groups
progressing critical issues such as:
"Straight Talking" performance
Consultation with local management.
Direct communications with constituents,
including dedicated listening groups and open site surgeries.
We respect every individual's legal right to
belong to a trade union (or not) and we are committed to the principles
of collective workplace representation. However our preference
is for colleagues' views to be represented through our in-house
consultative bodythe Employee Consultation Forumand
not via union recognition as the ECF recognises the views of all
The facts that the Field Services team chose
overwhelmingly not to recognise the CWU as their representative
body shows that the Cable & Wireless employees prefer the
ECF method of representation.
The Burke Group was employed to support Cable
& Wireless as the company had no previous experience of the
union recognition process.
30 July 2009