Tens of thousands of BT and OpenReach staff will take part in a strike today in the first of four planned walkouts this month.
The dispute, which involves more than 40,000 Communication Workers Union (CWU) members working for BT and Openreach, was triggered by BT’s unilateral imposition of real-terms pay cuts for all CWU-represented grades, according to the union.
The strike is the latest in a line of walk outs which began in the summer following a company wide ballot at BT group in June.
Within Openreach, where 28,425 CWU members were entitled to vote, participants recorded a 95.8 per cent ‘yes’ vote for industrial action on a 74.8 per cent turnout.
In BT, where 10,353 were issued with ballot papers, another remarkable ‘yes’ vote of 91.5 per cent was recorded on a 58.2 per cent turnout.
The main hope for the union is that such an overwhelming demonstration of workforce anger will persuade management back to the negotiating table.
CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said:“It is downright disgraceful that BT Group’s refusal to treat its members with an ounce of dignity has come to this.
“Time and time again, we have asked for negotiations to resolve what may well be a dangerous dispute for many, only to be ignored by a senior management that could not be less interested in addressing the anger that exists in their workplaces.”
BT Group response to CWU strikes
In response to the planned industrial action this month, A BT Group spokesperson said: “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”.
The group added that they plan to minimise disruption caused by the industrial action by postponing any non-essential planned engineering or software updates - this was done during the coronavirus pandemic and is also done during holidays such as Christmas.
When is the next CWU strike planned for?
CWU members will next be on strike action on Monday (October 10) and then again on October 20 and 24.