BT strike on the cards as union ballots staff

The prospect of the first strike at BT in more than 20 years moved a step closer today when the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced it would be balloting staff for industrial action.

The CWU, which represents more than 55,000 BT employees, made the move after BT failed to respond to its midday deadline for improving on its proposed pay rise for staff.

The union is angry that front-line staff have been offered a 2% pay award, while chief executive Ian Livingston received a £1.2m bonus payment, and was offered a £50,000 pay rise to £900,000.

Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary, said: “We’ve made our position very clear; 2% is not good enough when the company is making profits of more than £1bn, paying shareholders a 6% dividend ,and paying out large sums to senior executives while inflation is at 5.3%.

“Our members are angry about the blatant double standards when it comes to pay for those at the top compared to the rest of staff at the company. We’re not asking for the earth, we’re asking for a fair and affordable share of BT’s success. If it’s good enough for the executives, it’s good enough for the staff.

BT said it was “disappointed” by the CWU’s decision to call a ballot, but added that its “door remains open”.

“It is in no-one’s interest for industrial action to take place and we wrote to the union last week to say we remain willing to meet with them,” a spokesman said.

“Our final offer is fair, realistic and more generous than those they have accepted elsewhere. This offer could see their lowest-paid members receive up to 5.4% in pay and bonuses, with some thousands of staff also enjoying a second pay rise in October.”

It emerged last week that BT managers are being asked to provide details of their broader skills for use in the event of disruption.

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