BT union announces 48-hour strike action in protest over pay

26,000 engineers and call center operators to down tools again this month

The union representing upset BT workers has served notice on the one-time UK state owned telco that tens of thousands of engineers and call center operators will down tools for two more days of strikes this month.

In a message to members - seen by The Reg - the Communication Workers Union says it intends to “take further industrial action in our in support of our trade dispute with BT plc and Openreach Ltd over pay”.

“The industrial action will be for a 48-hour period commencing 00:01 on Tuesday 30th August 2022 and finishing at 24:00 on Wednesday 31st August 2022," the missive adds.

As many readers no doubt know, the CWU pressed BT for a 10 percent pay hike in 2022 but instead BT offered a £1,200 pay award in March, and then upped it to £1,500 which it paid into the bank accounts of 58,000 frontline workers in April, without the union’s approval.

BT said this equated to between a 5-8 percent rise for the lowest paid staff and was the highest award in decades, at a time when it is investing heavily in building next-generation networks.

The union pointed to the 32 percent annual pay increase for BT CEO Philip Jansen that took his package to £3.2 million, and the £1.3 billion profit the company booked in the fiscal year ended 31 March. It also highlighted the UK's spike in inflation which is forecast to reach 13.3 percent in 2022.

With negotiations between the parties at a stalemate, the CWU balloted members for industrial action in June and 26,000 BT workers - 21,000 Openreach engineers and 4,000 call center operators - voted in favor.

The first strikes took place on 29 July and 1 August, and in the period since, the union has tried to raise the pressure on BT management to reopen pay negotiations, something the company has steadfastly refused to do. The CWU said the first strikes should act as a wake-up call to BT’s top brass and are trying to organize meetings with BT’s biggest shareholders, which seems like a bold but perhaps fruitless exercise.

The CWU added today that actions taken to date had a “massive impact” on BT - something BT denies - and “we now need to maintain the pressure on the company and therefore we have set these further dates for industrial action.”

In a webcast, General Secretary Dave Ward, claimed BT management was surprised at the level of turnout in the ballot and the previous two strike dates, and said BT demonstrated with its most recent results that it can afford to offer higher pay rises.

“We’re not just looking at strike action, we are also looking to keep the pressure up politically and we’re going to be organizing that shareholders meeting and we’ll come and talk to you fairly soon about that.

“Their position of not negotiating is not sustainable, we already know from back channels… that the company understand now that they can’t just keep facing away from the reality of this dispute, they can’t keep alienating their workers,” he added.

In a statement sent to The Register, a BT Group spokesperson said:

“We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, although we’re disappointed, we respect their decision to strike. We have made the best pay award we could and we are in constant discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here. In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected”. ®

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