BT to reward thousands of its frontline staff who have kept the UK’s vital communication channels up and running during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

BT said almost 60,000 frontline workers at BT will receive a special bonus of £1,500 in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, some BT engineers have been subjected to appalling levels of violence during the pandemic. This includes one Openreach engineer who in 2020 was left with five stab wounds after being attacked in the street.

BT Open Reach Rebrand. London. Picture Steve O’Connell 21-06-17

Engineer risk

The engineer was in his forties, and the motives behind the attack remain unclear, although it came during the height of abuse of telecom workers over false 5G conspiracy theories.

The chief executive of Openreach, Clive Selley, admitted last year that engineers faced violence and intimidation as they went about doing their jobs, trying to keep the UK communication channels open and functioning during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

BT’s chief executive, Philip Jansen also revealed last year that the carrier had seen telephone poles wrapped in barbed wire to stop its engineers doing their job, even though they are fixed-line (landline) cables and nothing to do with 5G and the mobile network.

He also revealed last year that 39 BT engineers had been verbally or physically assaulted – including threats to kill.

Ill informed members of the public have also confronted engineers installing cables or fibre, or doing repairs and demand to know if they were installing 5G – often invading their workspace or filming them.

Staff bonus

To this end BT has now announced it will give 59,000 of its staff a £1,000 cash bonus, which they will receive in June.

In addition, the workers, who include engineer and customer service centre staff, will receive a further £500 in shares, which will be awarded after three years as part of the employee share scheme.

The bonus award will cost BT about £110m, and the company reportedly said the payments represent about 5 percent of the average employee’s salary.

“BT has made a massive contribution to the national cause over the past year: we’ve supported the NHS, families and businesses, and avoided the use of redundancy or furlough in our response to the pandemic,” Philip Jansen reportedly said.

“Our frontline colleagues and key workers have been true heroes, keeping everyone connected in this most difficult time,” he added.

“BT has delivered for our customers through the dedication of all our people, but inevitably the pandemic hit our financial performance, like that of most companies,” said Jansen. “In this context, we have to prioritise and I am determined that we will do everything in our power to reward our frontline colleagues.”

Pay freeze

This is the second time that BT has rewarded its staff.

In June 2020, it made a £500 share award to all of its 100,000 staff.

The bonus comes amid a pay freeze at BT, and the threat of the first national strike at the former UK incumbent since 1987 over a row about planned job cuts and site closures.

Last week BT confirmed it will deliver fibre to the premise (FTTP) to 20 million homes or businesses by the mid- to late-2020s.

The commitment came after UK regulator Ofcom published an agreement on the pricing and other conditions needed for the former UK incumbent to commit £12 billion for the rollout.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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