BT Says Strike ‘In No One’s Interest’

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The Communications Workers Union claims BT’s pay offer is not in line with the company’s £1billion profits

BT has responded to an announcement by the Communication’s Workers Union late last week of potential strike action over pay by claiming that any such action would be “disproportionate” given the company’s current package for workers.

In a statement, BT said that it is happy to meet with the CWU and discuss its proposed 2 percent pay rise which has angered union members. “Industrial action is in no-one’s interests and it would be disproportionate given our offer could see the average union member get a package worth around four per cent,” the company said in a statement. “This offer is fair, realistic and more generous than those accepted by the union elsewhere.”

The CWU announced late last week that it intends to ballot its members on potential strike action over pay. The CWU contends that that a 2 percent rise is not in line with the company’s recent profits. “CWU rejected BT’s offer of 2 percent plus £250 and a possible additional £250 based on meeting undisclosed targets next year,” the union said.  BT has claimed that the total payments would be equivalent to a 5.4 percent pay rise, however this would only be true for seven people in the company who earn a salary of just over £14,000 and the final £250 would not be paid – if at all – until June 2011.”

A spokesperson for BT confirmed that the likelihood of the strike action going ahead depended on the result of the ballot this week.

Impact On Broadband Roll-out

The CWU says it represents over 50,000 people in BT in the UK who work in call centre, engineering and retail roles. If the strike goes ahead it would impact “the laying and maintenance of phone and broadband lines and handling customer service and business calls”, the union states.

The CWU said that if strike action goes ahead it would be for the first time in 20 years. We’re obviously very disappointed that BT has not improved its pay offer of 2 per cent despite their healthy profits this year,” said Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary. “We now have no option than to put the wheels in motion to ballot all appropriate members in BT for strike action, which would be the first action of its kind in over 20 years.”

The union’s concerns are focused around a 2 percent pay-offer by BT which it has branded “not good enough”. “”Our members are angry about the blatant double standards when it comes to pay for those at the top compared to the rest of staff at the company. We’re not asking for the earth, we’re asking for a fair and affordable share of BT’s success. If it’s good enough for the executives it’s good enough for the staff,” said Kerr.

Ian Livingston On £850K + £1,206k Bonus

In a statement the CWU listed the pay and bonuses awarded to senior staff including the company’s chief executive and chairman: “Ian Livingston CEO – basic £850k plus annual bonus of £1,206k, total up by 79% on 2009. He is also set to get a 6 percent pay rise this year, but has pledged to take a 2 percent pay rise and donate the rest charity. Sir Michael Rake, Chairman total of £670k up from £630k – a 6.3% rise – in 2009 for working part time.”

For its part, BT said that thousands of employees would benefit from the company’s financial performance. “As for bonuses, up to thirty thousand staff will benefit this year but that’s because their packages are tied to the company’s performance and BT has performed well,” BT said. “If the CWU wish to discuss performance-related bonuses for their members we would be delighted to discuss that with them”.

BT is not the only tech company to face strike action recently. HP has been involved in a dispute with staff belonging to the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union which had planned strike action. Last year unions also criticised Fujitsu UK for announcing plans to cut around 1200 jobs in its services arm claiming that the moves are unnecessary given the company’s relatively healthy profits.

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