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BT will back down in face of non-stop protests, says union

CWU: Just like UK government did a reverse-ferret on tax, so will national telecom titan on staff pay

BT strikers protesting over pay should take note that the British government was forced to climbdown on its proposed tax cut for the richest in society, and the national telecom operator will inevitably bow to continued protests too.

This is the claim from the Communications Workers Union, which has been trying to drum up as much support as possible among members within BT's engineering and call center workforce preparing for another four strike dates.

The union has asked BT workers, including around 21,000 engineers from Openreach and 5,000 call center operators, to down tools today and on October 10, 20 and 24. Unlike in previous rounds during July and August, this time 999 emergency call handlers will join the picket line.

Union Prospect said last month it did not support the decision to pull 999 workers into the industrial action, "safety critical services must be protected," it said.

The CWU said today it chose those dates to "maximize impact on BT and minimize impact on you" but didn't specify what it meant. Either way, thousands of BT staff on strike will forgo their wages for those days spent protesting.

"BT Group has a waiting plan," CW added in a message to members that was seen by The Reg. "They are playing a waiting game in the hope you give up. Make no mistake about it, the action you are taking has a purpose. It will work if you remain resolved to win and stick with your colleagues."

The company "expects the union picket line to get smaller but there only way to show the big bosses your continued disgust at the utterly inadequate (and imposed £1,500 is to be visible on your local picket lines. As the long-term economic circumstances worsen for everyone, there can be no wavering in the determination to secure a fair pay deal for all."

The dispute kicked off in March when BT Group offered 58,000 frontline workers across the business a £1,200 (c $1,354) one-off pay award. The CWU wanted more and BT then imposed £1,500 (c $1,690), paying it into the account of staff in April without consulting the union.

Words of war then commenced as BT refused to re-open negotiations on pay, saying this was the largest offer made in years and pointing to the cost it is shouldering to modernize next generation networks in Britain

The CWU highlighted inflation in the UK, currently up 9.9 percent year-on-year, and the £3.2 million ($3.62 million) that BT Group CEO Philip Jansen was paid in fiscal 2022, up 30 odd percent on the prior year. The union has since insisted it will seek support for pay rises from BT’s largest shareholders, which we suspect will be a fruitless exercise.

Philip Jansen, chief exec, BT plc. Pic: BT

BT CEO orders staff: Back to the office or risk 'disciplinary action'


BT has downplayed the impact of the union’s previous industrial action dates while the CWU said they should act as a wake-up call to senior BT management.

In its latest message to members, the CWU pointed out that sustained protests had forced the UK government to reverse previous tax cuts for the wealthiest earners at a time when millions of households are struggling to pay bills.

"Protests took place all over the country last weekend and now the government has been forced to take notice and reverse their decision. Do not doubt protest. Keep sending BTB Group the message that you will not concede," the CWU said.

We've asked BT to comment and it pointed us toward previous comment made here:

"We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, whilst we respect the right of colleagues to take industrial action, we are profoundly disappointed that the CWU is prepared to take this reckless course of action by including 999 services in strikes.

"We will do whatever it takes to protect 999 services – redeploying our people to the most important priority is a normal part of BT Group operations.

"We made the best pay award we could in April and we have held 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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