In the first national telecoms strike since 1987, thousands of BT and Openreach workers have walked out today (Friday 29 July), with more than 250 picket lines being formed across the UK.
The strike, involving more than 40,000 workers, is in response to an impasse over a £1,500 pay rise, which the Communications Workers Union has said is insufficient. It added that BT had “stuck two fingers up” to workers.
A further strike will be held on Monday.
The union warned the strike would affect the rollout of ultra-fast broadband, and cause issues for people working from home.
But BT has said it had “tried and tested processes for large-scale colleague absences” to minimise disruption.
BT has repeatedly said it made its best pay offer and would not be re-opening the 2022 pay review.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Our members kept the country connected during the pandemic. They deserve a proper pay rise, and that’s what they’re going to get,” he said.
Industrial unrest in UK, summer 2022
“Workers at BT Group will never accept their bosses using Swiss banks while they use food banks.”
Against a backdrop of fast-rising inflation, and surging energy and food prices, BT on Thursday revealed its first sales growth for five years as the telecoms firm benefited from price increases for customers earlier this year, with revenues increased by 1% to £5.1bn for the three months to 30 June.
The group said it was also boosted by more people signing up for fibre-optic broadband and strong trading in its Openreach network business.
BT said it had engaged in “exhaustive discussions” with the union, before finally deciding on a £1,500 payment which it claimed was is its “highest pay award in more than 20 years” for workers.
It stated: “We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be reopening the 2022 pay review, having already made the best award we could.”
Ward added the staff on strike included those who run all of the maintenance on Britain’s broadband services and worked on maintaining national infrastructure from the NHS to the Ministry of Defence to mobile phone masts.
He said: “BT Group are now gaslighting our members. Announcing hundreds of millions of pounds in profit on the eve of the first national strike since 1987 smacks of arrogance and complete contempt for frontline workers.”
“This dispute sits squarely at the feet of Philip Jansen (BT’s chief executive]. He represents everything that needs to change about big business in Britain.”