UK communications union rejects BT’s latest wage offer • The Register
The Communications Workers Union is holding a ballot for members working at BT after rejecting the telecoms company’s offer of a £1,500 lump sum pay rise for 58,000 frontline workers.
Just last week Britain’s biggest broadband and phone provider put a £1,200 raise on the table for staff, but it was dismissed by the union as insulting at a time when the local inflation is skyrocketing.
The package increased by 25% in the days that followed, but that didn’t make a difference. In the latest update, CWU said: “The proposal for a fully consolidated £1,500 lump sum increase (prorated for part-timers) is simply not acceptable.
“Inflation has risen exponentially and household incomes are being tested in this cost of living crisis. National Insurance is rising this month which means a reduction in your take home pay,” he said in a BT Pay newsletter to members, seen by The Reg.
“The CWU bargaining team and the national executive listened very carefully to our members, we said you should get a 10% pay rise; £1,500 isn’t even half that in real terms and a mere fraction of BT’s profits.They can afford you more and you deserve more.
“We have come to the end of the negotiations, BT have imposed this pay increase, without giving you the opportunity to vote on whether you think this is an acceptable offer. We therefore have no alternative but to prepare a legal industrial action ballot in pursuit of our wage demand,” he concludes.
The union, which has about 40,000 BT workers among its members, said last week that many workers have put their necks on the line during the pandemic to keep essential services running. He called for a double-digit percentage pay rise for engineers, contract centers and retail staff who make up 58,000 of BT’s 83,000 people in the UK. They are also employees of EE and Openreach.
BT must ‘prioritise’ between ‘shareholders and workers’, says union boss
Yesterday BT CEO Philip Jansen wrote to staff to confirm that ‘eligible team members and frontline colleagues will receive a pay rise of £1,500, effective April 1’.
He said it was one of the “biggest pay raises we’ve given in over 20 years”.
“The pay rise means an increase of up to 8% for some of our staff, and over 3% even for our highest paid team members, which is still above the UK average,” a- he added.
It was, Jasen said, “at the higher end of what other companies are paying.”
The BT boss admitted “we were unable to agree on this pay rise with the CWU” despite lengthy discussions in recent weeks. “However, hearing all of your feedback, the two most important principles for me and my team were firstly to give the best pay raise possible – which it is, and secondly to pay it as soon as possible – which we are. .”
BT gave team members a 1.5 per cent pay rise in 2020 and a £1,500 bonus last year.
A CWU member at BT told us: “The groundswell in this company from below is a vote for a strike as soon as possible.
He said BT “knows very well how long it takes to organize with anti-union laws how it can be done and has a plethora of highly paid lawyers trying to sabotage the outcome of the poll. We let’s have no illusions about how it has hurt us, but BT are a profitable multi-million pound business and can afford a decent pay rise for ALL of their staff.”
As we highlighted last week, inflation rose 6.1% in February year on year, according to the consumer price index, and could be closer to 10% by the end of this year because the cost of fuel, energy and food is going through the roof.
BT last held the position in March last year following a series of strikes by Openreach engineers protesting a change in the grading structure for new hires. The CWU has threatened to hold a national industrial ballot for strike action against the modernization program which includes the sacking of 13,000 staff and the closure of the vast majority of its offices, including the head office in central London .
However, on the eve of this election, BT and the union agreed to suspend the procedure after the company pledged to suspend the compulsory redundancies. Some staff say they hope the union sees the ballot through this period.
BT reported net profit of £1.472 billion for the year to March 31, although down from £1.734 billion the previous year.
Jansen said in his email to staff, “The CWU remains a key partner for us, and we will continue to speak to them about compensation and other topics important to us as team members and frontline colleagues at the future, but on this occasion, it wasn’t fair to wait.”
This position may soften over time. If not, BT could be launching its first national strike action since 1987. ®