Standing up for your rights

Standing up for your rights

Telefonica UK North West branch rep Paul Stevens speaks to Sally Taylor about how the union is supporting members at work

Telefonica call centre by Jon Eeles

With a wave of changes sweeping through the telecoms industry, Paul Stevens became a Prospect rep five years ago to help others in the workplace navigate the choppy waters.

 “I’m passionate about being able to help people,” explains Paul. “I saw becoming a rep as an extension of being a manager. There were a lot of changes we were finding out about, and I wanted to see what I could do to support people.”

It’s been a busy few years for Paul, helping members through a range of issues stemming from partnerships with Capita and Tesco Mobile, fighting for the best terms and conditions for everyone affected.

 “Being a rep is about giving somebody advice and an ear, and giving them an honest answer,” says Paul. “If a situation is going to be bad, they value having someone on hand who will be honest with them, help them understand what’s happening and explain what their options are.”

Union influence

After a bruising time following Capita’s takeover of parts of the Telefonica business, Prospect has worked to forge a constructive relationship with Telefonica. Further changes have been better handled, including two-year TUPE terms and more favourable options for workers affected by the partnership with Tesco Mobile.

 “Without union presence, it becomes a free for all with no checks and balances,” says Paul. “As a union, you can’t always change what the employer wants to do, but you can highlight the pitfalls, make amendments and help others understand the changes.

 “For members, having union representation makes a massive difference. You may think you understand restructures, or that it will never happen to you, but when it does happen it can be very scary.

 “We’re there to reassure people of processes that the employer must follow. We’ll explain clearly: these are the possible outcomes; these are the timescales, this is how we’ll support you.”

 An important part of Paul’s work is rooting out bullying, with one major success seeing Prospect partner with another union to end a senior manager’s bullying regime.

Stand up to bullying

“I can’t stand bullying in any way, shape or form, so it’s great to be able to stop that when it happens,” says Paul.

 “Bullying is completely counter-productive. It creates a hostile environment, sickness rates go up, people do what they’re told through fear alone. It’s unacceptable. We understand there will be tough targets to meet, but it has to happen through dialogue and explanation of what you’re trying to achieve.”

Being a union member means you get the help you need, when you need it. Paul says: “You wouldn’t dream of not insuring your car or your home and that’s a large part of what being in a union is about – making sure you will get what you need if it comes to it. You put your subscription money in and it will be there for when you need our help and support, and for when your fellow members need it.”

With the telecoms market going through major transition as the bread and butter of business in terms of mobile handsets and tariffs changes, the union will continue to champion workers’ rights. “It can be unsettling, especially because nobody really knows what the industry is going to look like,” says Paul. “But we’re well placed to support you. We will answer your concerns and we will share information.”

  • This article appears in the Winter 2018 edition of Stage Screen and Radio, the magazine for members in the BECTU sector of Prospect. Download a PDF here (member log-in required)
  • Photo shows people at work in a Telefonica call centre (taken by Jon Eeles)