BT 911 operators join BT wage strikes • The Register

Tens of thousands of BT Group engineers and call center workers, including those who handle 911 calls, are due to strike for a total of four days next month in a long-running pay dispute.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is increasing pressure on management at BT, Britain’s largest telecoms company and former state monopoly. Unionized workers shut down tools for two days in July and two days in August, but are expected to double the data in October.

Other CWU activities were included Contacting BT’s largest shareholders to push for higher pay bonuses for staff and plans to place ads in national newspapers to embarrass BT into returning to the negotiating table. Left Group Enough is enough got behind the campaign.

Around 26,000 BT workers – Openreach engineers – and call center staff were on strike.

“This argument is modern Britain in a nutshell: lives are at risk because top management in a company is not listening to workers,” said CWU General Secretary Dave Ward.

He said the decision to add more strike dates “was not taken lightly, but our union’s repeated attempts to initiate discussions have been rebuffed by management who clearly believe they stand above fair negotiations for people, making massive profits for them.”

In a statement to members, the CWU said:

“It has been decided to withdraw all emergency coverage including 999 operators and workers supporting 999 including Relay UK. We make no exceptions for members working during this round of labor disputes, including outreach.

“While this is an extremely difficult decision to make, they are among the lowest paid workers in the company and they too are undervalued by BT’s refusal to change jobs.”

The dispute concerns the imposition of a BT’s £1,500 salary bonus in April for 58,000 frontline workers, without consulting the CWU. The CWU wants a higher premium to reflect the rise in inflation, the profits of BT and CEO Philip Jansen, who will receive a pay rise of over 30 per cent to £3.2m ($3.87m) in 2022.

For its part, BT said the compensation on offer is the highest it has been in decades, and it pointed to the huge costs of building next-gen networks, some of which will have to be borne.

In June, The Big Issue, a magazine sold by the homeless, wrote that BT employees had set up a food bank in north-east England. BT said this was more of a convenience for time-pressed staff who couldn’t make it to the supermarket.

CWU’s Ward jumped in, adding: “999 operators use food banks, they’re worried about the bills and they’re being stretched to the limit.

“It is no surprise that workers’ goodwill has dried up and services are now being hampered.”

As might be expected, BT downplayed the impact of the previous strikes in July and August and the CWU hyped them up.

A BT spokesman said The registry: “We know our colleagues are struggling with the effects of high inflation and while we respect colleagues’ right to industrial action, we are deeply disappointed that the CWU is willing to take this reckless course of action by ending 999 services.” includes strikes.

“We will do everything we can to protect the 999 services – reallocating our staff to the most important priority is a normal part of BT Group operations.

“We got the best possible pay in April and we had discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here. In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimize disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.” ® BT 911 operators join BT wage strikes • The Register

Laura Coffey

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