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Regulatory/Politics

BT faces more summer strikes

After all the entreaties, warnings and threats, around 40,000 BT and Openreach employees finally laid down tools on two days earlier this summer amid simmering discontent over a pay award that is well below current levels of inflation.

After talks with BT failed to address what the Communication Workers Union (CWU) described as "insulting" pay inaction, Openreach engineers and BT call center staff took part in the planned strikes on July 29 and August 1. Notably, this was the first nationwide action since the telco was privatized in the 1980s.

The UK telco's summer of discontent shows no sign of ending with more strikes planned in August.  (Source: BT)
The UK telco’s summer of discontent shows no sign of ending with more strikes planned in August.
(Source: BT)

Now, two more days of industrial action have been penciled in for August 30 and 31. It seems that neither side has been able to overcome the stalemate that set in after BT awarded a pay rise of around 5% on average and 8% for the lowest paid workers with effect from April 1.

Inflated expectations

According to the CWU, it is planning a second, two-day strike because of BT management’s "failure to take up the union’s offer of serious talks to end the dispute."

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said the union is “still hoping to get BT back round the table for serious negotiations.”

"As things stand it has sadly become clear that simply isn’t going to happen unless we take further action…so that’s precisely what we’re going to do," Kerr said.

BT, for its part, continues to insist it has "made the best pay award we could" and said it won’t be re-opening the 2022 pay review.

"In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimize any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected," the telco said, reiterating its previous message that it has robust measures in place to reduce the impact of industrial action.


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The telco also says it has been in constant discussions with the union throughout this process, "including a recent face to face meeting, and although we’ve not yet reached any form of consensus, we are both committed to further dialogue."

It remains to be seen if any breakthrough can be achieved, although both sides appear unwilling to budge from their current positions.

BT did acknowledge that employees "are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, although we’re disappointed, we respect their decision to strike."

Such a placatory message is unlikely to deter unions and employees. The UK, like many nations, is grappling with soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), was 9.4% in the year to June, up from 9.1% in May.

This is the highest rate of CPI inflation since records began in 1997, and is said to be the country's highest rate of inflation for 40 years.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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