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BT preparing to offer financial support to inflation struck staff

CEO says UK government cap on energy has given it wiggle room, hopes payment will end further strikes

BT says UK government’s price cap on energy bills will allow it to provide financial assistance to employees struggling with relentless rises in inflation - a marked change on the CEO’s previous stance.

According to a report in Bloomberg, Philip Jansen, boss at the former state owned monopoly, hosted a video call to all staff this week to inform them the Energy Bill Relief Scheme which was introduced in September has given it more wiggle room. BT is said to account for 1 percent of Britain’s electricity consumption.

“Now that we know that the energy costs are capped at £200 million ($235 million) until end of March - I didn’t know that in April - I know we will do something.”

He added: “It will be targeted at those who need it the most”.

A spokesperson at BT said the quotes from the internal call were “accurate” but they didn’t add further details to the monetary support.

BT was locked in bitter negotiations with the Communication and Workers Union since March when a one-off pay award of £1,200 for 58,000 frontline staff was refused. BT subsequently paid employees £1,500 in April without consulting the union.

This, BT said at the time, was the highest award to staff in years, equating to 3 percent for the highest earners and 8 percent for the lowest. BT pointed to cost of rolling out FTTP and said it was unable to afford more.

The CWU wanted a ten percent increase, highlighted BT’s fiscal ’22 profit of £1.3 billion and the 30 percent plus rise Jansen got to take his financial package to £3.5 million.

Unionized BT staff voted to strike and downed tools for a total of eight days between July 29 and 24 October. The union has tried to pull as many levers as possible to pressure BT into re-entering pay discussions, including threatening to meet with institutional shareholders but, until now, the company said it wouldn’t budge.

The strikes - involving 26,000 BT Group engineers and call center works - are taking a toll on BT, with 40,000 broadband connections impacted by the industrial action in BT’s Q3.

The CWU wrote to BT members last week to say pay talks were back on, and on November 9 said those discussions were ongoing. “Right now there is no formal offer from BT but we are expecting them to put forward a proposal tomorrow.”

We've asked the CWU to comment.

On the call with staff, Jansen said he was “reasonably optimistic” the union “will agree” with that offer.

So this might bring an end to the first nationwide industrial action at BT since 1987. And by using the government energy price cap as a seemingly valid excuse, Jansen manages to perhaps save some face in front of the board. ®

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