Virgin Media considers de-recognising trade unions

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The Communication Workers Union say Virgin gave them no warning and that staff at the company are concerned about the move

Virgin Media is considering ending agreements with its trade unions which oblige it to discuss issues including pay with workers.

The company is currently holding a referendum, which closes on 16 November, after some staff said they did not want to be covered by agreements made between Virgin and unions they were not necessarily members of.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) says it was told by certain Virgin Media senior HR directors before voting began that it intended to de-recognise it. The union also claims Virgin Media has extended those eligible to vote in the referendum to include workers not even covered by the recognition agreement, in an attempt to influence the result. The company denies this.

The union currently has collective bargaining rights for part of the engineering workforce at Virgin. This means Virgin is obliged to speak to workers covered by the agreement about issues such as pay – which would no longer be the case if CWU were de-recognised.

Virgin also wants to de-recognise the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We’re currently asking some of our staff in the field whether collective bargaining deals struck many years ago, well before Virgin Media even existed, are still the best way to negotiate pay and working conditions.

“Over the years we’ve built independent and well established forums where employees represent each other to ensure they all have an inclusive say in company decision making. Following strong feedback from our people, we now want to understand what the majority want. This referendum is only open to those who would be directly impacted by these agreements and a vote to end them has no bearing on an individual’s choice to be a union member.”

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “If Virgin Media de-recognises its unions this will strike a major blow against ordinary working people who want their interests properly represented in the workplace.

“Since Virgin Media’s announcement we have been inundated with calls from concerned members and non members alike who fear what plans the company has in store to alter their terms and conditions of work.

“Ironically this attack on the democratic rights of the workforce is already leading to an increase in our membership.

“The CWU is not in the business of walking away and abandoning its members. We intend to continue the fight for better working conditions in Virgin Media – and we intend to continue to grow our membership throughout the company.”

Last year, a call centre in Liverpool where CWU applied to get recognition was promptly closed by Virgin, despite it being a centre of excellence.

The CWU says it has a good relationship with Virgin, and there have been no strike threats or pay disputes to explain Virgin Media’s decision to hold a referendum.

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