Looming BT strike threatens broadband disruption

Workers balloted on strike action over "double standards" pay dispute

Stewart Mitchell
18 Jun 2010

The threat of a first BT strike in 23 years bringing disruption to broadband users moves a step closer today.

According to the Communication Workers Union, ballot papers are being dispatched today asking BT workers to vote “yes” for strike action, as animosity over an ongoing pay row escalates.

“We can't give details of how long any strike may be or how many people would be involved, but we think it would lead to widespread disruption in some areas,” a CWU spokesperson told PC Pro.

The biggest impact could be in fixing faults on exchanges or broadband lines

“Although BT might move call centre operations to other centres, it's really on the engineering side of things that things will be felt most keenly.

“The biggest impact could be in fixing faults on exchanges or broadband lines - which would be on hold for the duration of a strike - and things that are scheduled to happen, such as laying new fibre or upgrading exchanges, wouldn't happen.”

Double standards

The Union is unhappy over what it perceives as double standards over pay, after it rejected BT's original offer of 2% plus £250 and a possible additional £250.

According to the union, the offer compares poorly with payments made to CEO Ian Livingston, who received £850,000 plus an annual bonus of £1.2m, which the union claims is an increase of 79% on 2009. The company made more than £1bn in profits last year.

"We are seeking an affordable and reasonable pay rise for our members in BT who have contributed heavily to the success of the company during a difficult couple of years.

"We are amazed at the aggressive attitude of BT bosses in the face of blatant double standards,” said Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary. “The company's claim that a 5% pay rise for staff would lead to cutting back and making redundancies is an unbelievable fat-cat excuse - it would cost 3.6% of available cash flow, hardly breaking the bank.”

BT denies it is being unfair and said in a statement that it "has improved its offer several times but the union have not moved once from its opening claim. Our offer is one of the best around and would see all its members receive 5.1% over 21 months, with thousands actually getting more than 10%.

"On top of that, there are extra payments and guarantees on job security. BT is now contacting union members directly as it is clear that the union's leadership are unwilling to negotiate.”

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