BT strike ballot confirmed as deadline passes


The Communications Workers Union (CWU) is to press ahead with a strike ballot among its members working for BT after the telecoms giant did not respond to the union's demands.

BT failed to meet today's noon deadline set by the CWU, which is campaigning for an improvement in the pay rise offer for BT staff from two per cent to five per cent.

CWU, which represents more than 50,000 BT staff in the UK, said that strike action would cause significant operational problems for the telecommunications firm, including disruptions to customer service and the maintenance of phone and broadband lines.

"We've made our position very clear: two per cent is not good enough when the company is making profits of over 1 billion, paying shareholders a six per cent dividend and paying out large sums to senior executives while inflation is at 5.3 per cent," said Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary.

BT's annual report for the year to 31 March 2010 revealed that a number of top level workers had received bonuses and pay rises.

Ian Livingston, the firm's chief executive, received a 1,206,000 bonus last year on top of an 850,000 basic salary, which has now risen to 900,000. He deferred the pay rise last year after BT failed to hit targets.

Group finance director Tony Chanmugam has had his salary increased to 510,000 from 475,000, while retail chief executive Gavin Patterson's wage has risen to 525,000 from 500,000. Both increases are greater than two per cent.

Earlier in the year, BT's results showed that in 2009 the company had made over 1 billion profit and beat its forecasts by doubling free cash flow to 1.9 billion. It also made 1.75 billion in cost savings, which was partly delivered through a pay freeze and around 30,000 redundancies.

"Our members are angry about the blatant double standards when it comes to pay for those at the top compared to the rest of staff at the company. We're not asking for the earth, we're asking for a fair and affordable share of BT's success. If it's good enough for the executives, it's good enough for the staff," Kerr added.

He stressed that "only a revised pay offer will bring this dispute to an end".

A BT spokesperson told IT PRO: "BT is keen to resolve the current impasse and so we are willing to meet with the CWU. Industrial action is in no-one's interests and it would be disproportionate given our offer could see the average union member get a package worth around four per cent. This offer is fair, realistic and more generous than those accepted by the union elsewhere."

"As for bonuses, up to 30,000 staff will benefit this year but that's because their packages are tied to the company's performance and BT has performed well. If the CWU wish to discuss performance-related bonuses for their members we would be delighted to discuss that with them," the spokesperson added.

CWU will announce details of the timetable for the ballot next week.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.