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London branch of CWU tells BT engineers to reject pay offer

The Greater London Combined Branch of the CWU, the communications union, is urging BT workers to vote against the pay deal ahead of the crucial ballot scheduled for 15 December.

In a letter to members, the GLC claimed the current offer on the table is too low, and it “recommends that you vote to REJECT the latest BT pay offer.”

“Our negotiators [at the wider CWU organization] promised any deal would need to be back-paid and be a substantial increase for all grades. You the members told us loud and clear that any pay rise would need to improve your current standard of living and meet the rising cost of inflation.

“We as a branch feel this current offer falls way short of your expectations,” the letter adds.

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The dispute kicked off in April after BT issued a pay award of £1,500 to 58,000 frontline workers. The CWU said it wanted something closer to 10 percent to match rising inflation and launched a ballot for industrial action after BT refused to budge.

Some 26,000 Openreach engineers and nearly 5,000 call center staff voted to strike and between July and August workers downed tools. The action prevented BT Group from setting up tens of thousands of broadband connections over the eight days that staff went on strike.

BT agreed to again take a seat at the negotiating table last month and thrashed out an agreement with the CWU. This includes a £1,500 consolidated and pensionable pay rise to be paid monthly from January to 85 percent of BT Group UK workforce, if unionized workers at BT agree to it.

The pay review for 2023 would shift from April to September. The GLC says this means in “real terms” it is an 18-month pay deal. It calculated that “Financial year 2022-2023 is actually an increase in salary of £1,875 minus pay lost/ sacrificed due to industrial action.” The review date for 2024 would return to April.

The pay rise on offer and the one paid in April this year would equate to between a 6.68 to 14.78 percent increase, the CWU previously estimated.

Further, the GLC complained there is no London weighting for BT members living in the capital, and no other allowances are to be increased. “We believe your sacrifice taking industrial action deserves a better offer,” the letter adds.

Something also worrying some employees is BT’s expanded cost-cutting efforts and the way this will impact them. BT began the program in 2018 to reduce annual overheads by £1 billion, which involved laying off 13,000 staff and reducing real estate by 90 percent. BT has now upped this, as outlined in its last set of financial results for the three months ended September.

The change in tone from the wider CWU is palpable: it told BT members this week that they’d not get a better deal, and failure to agree it would result in another ballot for industrial action to start next year.

Previously, it did a lot of chest beating about how it would hold BT to account, after the company made £1.3 billion in its 2022 financial year, albeit down on the one before, and how it paid CEO Philip Jansen a 30-plus percent pay rise to £3.46 million.

When announcing the pay offer at the end of November, Jansen said: “This award is based on the principles we have followed throughout this difficult period. It gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible; favors our lower paid colleagues; and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay.”

He added: “Crucially, it has been worked on in conjunction with the CWU. As I’ve said throughout, whatever our differences, our unions are vital partners. We will now build on this collaboration: We have agreed with both our union partners that we will all lean into the opportunities and challenges the future will bring, specifically our transformation plans and the delivery of the £3 billion cost savings by the end of FY25.”

We have asked the CWU to comment and asked the GLC Branch to confirm how many BT employees are among its membership. ®


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