Unions hit out at O2 and Vodafone

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O2 and Vodafone defended themselves against a stinging attack from trade unions last week for treatment of staff over pay and redundancies, respectively.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents operator staff at non-management level, branded O2 “hostile” in its pay negotiation, as it rejected a second pay increase offer of two per cent.

It said O2’s offer had been issued on the condition the CWU recommends it to members. It said its impartiality precludes it recommending an offer that is not fairly reflective of staff wishes.

A spokesperson said: “It is a hostile tactic. O2 has been performing well, especially given the recession. This is a company that can afford to give its staff a pay rise.”

In response, a spokesperson said: “We are disappointed and surprised the CWU rejected the offer, particularly in view of the fact O2 has offered pay increases for two years in a row against the trend of many companies who are freezing pay. We will continue to try and reach a satisfactory agreement with the CWU.”

The CWU wants a five per cent increase in light of O2’s lead in the UK market for profitability, revenue and customer numbers. O2 and the CWU will consult for a third time this week.

A CWU spokesperson said: “O2 must increase the offer or face industrial unrest among staff.”

Meanwhile, unions said Vodafone had employed ugly tactics to axe 375 staff earlier this month. The CWU said staff at its Stoke and Warrington offices have been encouraged to skip redundancy packages and take pay-offs, and that there has been no union involvement.

The CWU said: “Vodafone’s actions are disgusting; you could not make this sort of thing up in terms of bad employee relations. Vodafone has not looked at ways to place staff in new roles, or to take a voluntary approach. It is not following procedure, which is for a 90-day consultation period. The union hasn’t been involved at all.”

Prospect, which represents operator staff at management level, said it has taken calls from staff in its Newbury headquarters claiming the same.

But Vodafone responded: “Individual consultations were part of the compromise agreements, instead of collective 90-day consultation. People have been paid for the consultation period rather than extending the period of uncertainty for them.

“There was no obligation to sign an agreement. Vodafone pays for people to consult an independent solicitor so they can be sure to understand what they are offered. Outplacement support is available for three months along with counselling or emotional support.”

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