The union representing BT’s frontline workers has launched another round of strikes just as competitor Virgin Media O2 announced a 10 percent pay increase for its lowest-paid staff.
About 40,000 BT employees, represented by the Communication Workers Union, are going on four-day strikes this month, starting on Thursday and for the first time since the industrial action began, 999 emergency responders are joining the strikes.
“We will never walk away from this,” said Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, adding that the anger “will not go away.”
The union is contesting a £1,500 pay raise offered in April to 58,000 frontline workers, including engineers, call center workers and shop assistants, within the BT Group, representing an average pay increase of 4.8 per cent at a time when inflation was around 10 per cent is. cent.
The CWU has pointed to the discrepancy between the pay of frontline workers and that of senior management, as the chief executive received a 32 percent pay increase to £3.5m in the past financial year, due to past share awards.
On the same day as the CWU’s new wave of industrial action, Virgin Media O2 announced it planned to introduce a new £1,400 payment for workers earning £35,000 or less. Including a 3 percent pay increase earlier in the year and bonus payments, the new offering equates to a pay increase of more than 10 percent for the company’s lowest-paid staff.
Last month, Sky also announced it would be offering 70 percent of its staff a new “winter pay” of £1,000.
Andy Kerr, CWU’s deputy general secretary responsible for telecoms, said Virgin Media O2’s offering is “the kind of thing we’d like to look at” for BT staff.
The BT action comes amid a spate of public and private strikes across the UK as staff struggle with the rising cost of living. About 115,000 Royal Mail employees will hold back from work for several days in October and November, and British railway workers have continued their strike action throughout the week.
BT said in a statement last month that it was “deeply disappointed that the CWU is willing to follow this reckless course of action by including 999 shifts in strikes”.
“We awarded the best possible reward in April and we’ve been in talks with the CWU to find a way forward from here,” the statement said.
Ward said the union had received some criticism for its decision to include 999 call center workers in the latest round of union actions, and said he was aware that striking members will suffer pay cuts.
“Taking strike action is very difficult during a cost of living crisis,” he said, adding that it is BT management, not the unions, who are “reckless”.