Business

BT strikes set to end after staff offered extra £1,500 pay rise

BT has offered the majority of its staff an additional £1,500 pay rise to draw a line under an acrimonious dispute in which the company was hit by strikes for the first time in more than 30 years.

The former monopoly informed its workforce on Monday that everyone earning £50,000 or less a year — 85 per cent of the total — would receive a £1,500 consolidated pay increase at the start of January on top of £1,500 offered in April.

The Communication Workers Union and Prospect are recommending the pay award, which will be taken to a staff ballot next month, marking a likely end to a rancorous dispute that has led 40,000 workers to go on strike, and lost BT customers.

Staff at BT are among millions of private and public sector workers who have withheld their labour in anger at real-term pay cuts amid soaring inflation and a cost of living crisis.

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The RMT has repeatedly brought British railways to a near standstill this year, while postal workers have staged 10 days of strike action since July, with several more planned ahead of Christmas.

Nurses across the NHS will strike in the run-up to Christmas, while 70,000 university teachers across schools in Scotland staged walkouts this month, and the government faces the possibility of further waves led by junior doctors, midwives and civil servants.

The CWU, which has led eight days of strike action against BT since July, has been pushing for a re-examination of the £1,500 pay increase given to staff in April, while the telecoms group’s executive team has consistently argued that the existing deal was not open for negotiation and that staff should focus their attention on future offers.

Taking into account the pay rise earlier this year, eligible staff will receive pay rises of between 6 per cent and 16 per cent, averaging at 9 per cent.

BT has informed staff there will be no customary pay increase in April but there will be an additional pay negotiation in September 2023, based on the group’s financial performance and the economic backdrop at the time.

BT’s chief executive Philip Jansen, said that the pay rise “gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible, favours our lower paid colleagues and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay”.

“Crucially, it has been worked on in conjunction with the CWU. As I’ve said throughout, whatever our differences, our unions are vital partners.”

The new pay offer comes in spite of BT increasing its 2025 cost-savings target by £500,000 this month, and was enabled by the government’s energy bill relief scheme for businesses, which has put a £200mn ceiling on extra costs for the company. Staff wages account for nearly a third of BT’s £13.3bn operating costs.

During months of strike action, the CWU said BT management had not consulted the union adequately before pushing ahead with April’s £1,500 pay rise to 58,000 frontline workers including engineers, call centre staff and retail workers.

​​It also consistently pointed to the fact that Jansen received a 32 per cent pay increase to £3.5mn in the last financial year, owing to previous share awards.

In the second quarter of BT’s financial year its networking division Openreach suffered a net loss of 89,000 customers, about 40,000 of which were attributed to strike action.


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