BT staff begin strike action over below-inflation pay rises

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BT staff have begun strike action across the country in a row over below-inflation pay rises.

UK RPI inflation has reached 11.7 percent and is set to increase further later in the year. Many employers have offered pay rises to help ensure their staff aren’t left substantially worse off at the end of each month.

BT, for its part, offered its staff a £1,500 pay increase to help with the cost of living crisis. However, it’s been called a “weak, insulting” pay deal and a “dramatic real-terms pay cut”.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents BT and Openreach staff, warned that over 40,000 members would launch strike action today unless BT put a better offer on the table.

Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU, said earlier this month: “Our members, and working people in general, have had enough. We will not accept seeing workers use food banks while executives use Swiss banks.”

“This situation is unjust, but it’s also untenable—people will not work harder and harder for less and less forever.”

BT failed to reach an agreement on pay and so staff have begun picketing up and down the country.

“The serious disruption this strike may cause is entirely down to [BT CEO] Philip Jansen and his friends, who have chosen to stick two fingers up to their own workforce,” said Ward.

“Workers will not accept a massive deterioration in their living standards.”

The action is the first national telecom strike since 1987.

David Hennell, Business Development Director at alternative broadband specialists National Broadband, commented: “The strike action planned by BT workers has the potential to cause a significant impact on people’s daily lives.

“Over the past year, 11 million people experienced broadband outages and without technical support available, those who are unfortunate enough to experience issues will be left stranded. Such a scenario is no longer just a slight inconvenience but a major disruption to people’s lives.”

The CWU expects the strike to affect the rollout of ultrafast broadband.

“This strike action will also bring to a halt the ongoing roll-out of ultrafast broadband as part of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda – and that’s something where the Government cannot afford any further delays,” adds Hennell.

“Households and businesses in more remote and rural areas have for far too long been left on the wrong side of the digital divide with no access to decent broadband speeds.”

A CWU spokesperson said today’s strike action has gone well.

“Today’s strike has been nothing short of rock solid. In every town and city, BT Group employees manned over 400 picket lines, showing their opposition to a management that doesn’t seem to care about them,” said the spokesperson.

“Today’s strike should be a wake-up call to Philip Jansen and BT Group that workers in this country will not sit idly by and watch their living standards crumble. The public is fed up at the level of corporate greed in this country today.”

Further strike action is set to take place on Monday.

(Image Credit: BT)

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