BT Disappointed As CWU Votes To Strike, Despite 5 To 8 Percent Pay Rise

BT Group and its Openreach unit are facing the prospect a strike by staff members belonging to the Communications Workers Union (CWU) over a pay dispute.

The CWU represents 40,000 BT staff, has today voted to carry out what would be the first national strike in 35 years for the telecoms giant, unless a last minute deal is reach.

This could happen, as BT has faced the prospects of strikes back in 2010 and again in July 2021, which would have been the first national strike at the former UK incumbent since 1987.

Inflation issue?

That July 2021 agreement settled a row about planned job cuts and site closures as part of BT’s moderisation drive, also included an agreement that “BT will implement a pay increase for team members next year (i.e. 2022).”

According to ISPreview, that pay agreement would “depend on various factors including business performance, economic outlook and inflation.”

BT meanwhile told Silicon UK that it had awarded a fully consolidated pay increase to its team member and frontline colleagues of £1,500.

This represents a pay rise of around 5 percent on average and 8 percent for the lowest paid and it was effective from 1 April 2022, the carrier said.

But according to ISPreview, the Deputy General Secretary (Telecoms and Financial Services) of the CWU, Andy Kerr, had previously called for a pay rise of 10 percent to recognise the “contribution our members have made to the business”, and he promptly rejected BT’s offer.

Kerr warned that, given the surging level of inflation, the offer would have effectively represented a “relative pay cut“.

Last year BT also gave 60,000 frontline staff a special bonus of £1,500 in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic keeping the UK’s communication channels working.

The CWU held three strike ballots, for BT, Openreach and EE.

Both the BT and Openreach ballots gained over 90 percent approval for a strike, but the EE ballot narrowly failed to gain enough votes.

Disappointed BT

BT meanwhile has told Silicon UK that it was disappointed at the CWU action.

“BT Group awarded its highest pay rise for frontline colleagues in more than 20 years – an average 5 percent increase and up to 8 percent for those on the lowest salaries,” a BT spokesperson told Silicon UK.

“At the same time, we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-generation investment programme to upgrade the country’s broadband and mobile networks,” the spokesperson added. “These investments are vital for the benefit of our millions of customers and for the UK economy. Above all, they are central to the success of this business – and its colleagues – now and in the future.”

“Our job is to balance the competing demands of BT Group’s stakeholders and that requires careful management, especially in a challenging economic environment,” said the BT spokesperson. “The result of the CWU’s ballot is a disappointment but we will work to keep our customers and the country connected.”

BT said that it will await notification from the CWU of its intention to launch any specific industrial action.

The carrier also said it had tried and tested processes for large scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers.

“We proved this during the pandemic and as a precaution we are ready to do the same again should industrial action go ahead,” it said. “We will do everything we can to keep our customers connected.”

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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