Left-wing campaign group throws weight behind BT strikes

Enough is Enough crew tells telecom CEO to 'pay up'

Left-wing firebrands behind the Enough is Enough campaign in the UK are throwing their weight behind the thousands of BT Group engineers and call center staff on the picket lines today in protest over pay.

The latest strike started at midnight on August 30 and runs until midnight tonight. It follows earlier industrial action on July 29 and August 1, the first nationwide strikes by BT employees since 1987.

Now the Enough is Enough UK group, set up to organize a series of rallies across Britain to pressure the government to provide more assistance to working-class people amid the cost-of-living crisis, has backed the plight of Openreach engineers and those in BT's call centers.

In a Facebook post, it highlights that BT boss Philip Jansen received a 32 percent pay hike this year to £3.5 million ($4 million) while the corporation made £1.3 billion ($1.5 billion) in net profit and distributed £761 million ($887 million) to shareholders.

"Meanwhile its workers were using foodbanks," the group said, adding that it backs the thousands of BT staff who are downing tools. "We're right behind them. Pay up, Foodbank Phil."

According to the Big Issue in June, staff at a BT call center for mobile division EE set up a food bank in the northwest of England. BT branded it as more a convenience to those who couldn't get to the supermarket.

The group has put together a strike map showing all the locations where BT workers have downed tools.

One BT staffer said in response to the campaign group's posting that he had nothing against shareholders receiving dividends and company execs making big money "but there has to be a balance."

The dispute centers on BT offering 58,000 frontline workers a pay award of £1,500 for the year without consulting the Communication Workers Union. BT said this was the highest offer it could manage amid the cost of building next-generation networks across Britain, and it was the highest such offer to the workforce in years.

The CWU, which represents thousands of BT staff, disagreed. It wants a 10 percent pay rise and pointed to executive pay, company profits, and dividends to shareholders as evidence BT could afford to pay more to help staff manage the steep inflation situation in Britain, which could rise by up to 13 percent in 2022.

With BT refusing to reopen pay discussions, the CWU balloted members employed at the company and some 26,000 voted for industrial action.

Of the BT strike action to date, the company previously told us it kept the network running "safely and effectively… and there were no national incidents." The CWU said the action was damaging and should work as a wake-up call to management. The CWU has also approached BT's largest investors to convince them the staff deserve more money than was offered.

The game of corporate chicken continues. ®

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