BT is facing a historic strike by workers over “insulting” pay offer

For the first time since privatisation, BT is facing nationwide industrial action.

Credit: Bywire News, Canva
Credit: Bywire News, Canva
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LONDON (Bywire News) - BT is facing its first national strike since Margaret Thatcher’s government privatised it in the 1980s. It’s overpay, with the trade union involved saying that the offer the company has currently made is “insulting”.

A paltry pay offer?

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) represents staff across BT – including its Openreach and EE divisions. Currently, the company is offering a flat £1,500 pay rise to all workers. BT says this represents between a 3-and-8% increase for most workers. The CWU is not happy with this, though. Because it comes against backdrops of the current cost of living crisis and historical poor pay increases in previous years.

The Bank of England is forecasting that inflation will hit 10% in the coming months, with it already sitting at 9%, individual areas like energy seeing price increases of almost 100% and transport fuel costs hitting record levels. So, already the cost of living has cancelled out BT’s pay offer.

Then, you have the increases the company put in place in previous years. In 2021 it gave all workers a one-off £1,000 payment instead of a pay rise, and in 2020 it increased pay by just 1.5%. As the CWU pointed out this means that BT workers’ pay is now worth less than it was in 2019. 

BT says… 

A spokesperson for the company told Wales Online:

We awarded the highest pay rise we could for team members and frontline colleagues across BT Group. It’s our highest salary increase in more than 20 years.

So, it’s disappointing that the CWU has decided to ballot for industrial action without consulting its members on the outcome of our negotiations. If a strike takes place, nobody wins”.

“Highly deceptive”

The CWU disagrees. It says overall, the deal is worth just 4.8% and that’s not in real terms. It also noted that:

 the fact that recent uplifts to £20,000 for some of the company’s lowest paid workers on unagreed grades count towards the £1,500 increase, and are deducted from it, mean that for many the ‘headline’ increase of 7.89% is highly deceptive”.

So, it is balloting 40,000 members over industrial action. It sent them out on Wednesday, June 15, with the ballot closing on June 30. 

BT: “totally disrespectful” 

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said:

“This imposition undermines industrial relations and is totally disrespectful to the many thousands of employees who are CWU members.

The last time we came close to industrial action on pay in BT was in 2010. That, in itself, shows the seriousness with which we always try to negotiate to reach an agreed outcome and the fact we never take these decisions lightly”.

Some of the media have been reporting that the CWU rejected an 8% pay offer. This is not true – as the offer was never 8% in the first place. As Kerr said:

Despite what some in the media have been saying the CWU has categorically not rejected an 8% pay rise. For many of the lowest-paid workers at least 5% of what they have received only gets them back to where they should have been in the first place!  The simple truth is that BT had to increase these wages back in January because they couldn’t recruit on that salary!

In overall pay pot terms, the deal is worth around 4.8% and we simply don’t believe that’s enough – especially after a pay standstill last year and the full-blown cost of living crisis we are now in”.

Shareholders sitting pretty while workers suffer 

Moreover, BT wants to pay out nearly ¾ of a billion to shareholders this year – around 60% of its overall profit. So, it seems that while workers have to suffer, the company’s bosses and shareholders are sitting pretty. This obviously unacceptable situation is being rightly opposed by the CWU – and it is likely that a historic strike will follow. 

(Writing by Steve Topple, editing by Klaudia Fior)

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