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BT Set for New Union Battle as CWU Rejects “Insulting” Pay Rise

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 (5:34 pm) - Score 5,160
BT Staff and Recruits UK

The Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents around 40,000 staff at the UK telecoms and broadband ISP giant BT (inc. Openreach and EE), has rejected a new pay offer from the operator – described as a flat rate of £1,200 – as “insulting” given the “rising inflation and squeeze on household incomes.”

BT says they have proposed a consolidated pay increase of £1,200 for all Team Member and frontline colleagues across the BT Group, which they claim would be the “largest aggregate pay increase” for those workers in the last 14 years, representing a “salary increase of between 2.7% and 5.64%.”

NOTE: The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) recently rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February 2022, up from 5.5% in January.

However, the Deputy General Secretary (Telecoms and Financial Services) of the CWU, Andy Kerr, has described the proposed pay deal as a “relative pay cut” and instead calls for a 10% pay rise in order to recognise the “contribution our members have made to the business.”

Further negotiations are due over the coming days and Kerr has warned that, should a “decent offer” not be forthcoming, then the union will need to make “preparations for a statutory industrial action ballot.”

Andy Kerr, CWU, said (here):

“BT has made a pay offer which the CWU has rejected. The formal proposal is a flat rate of £1200.

This offer is insulting considering the contribution our members have made to the business; many of our members have put their lives on the line during the pandemic and significantly contributed to BT’s profits. Rising inflation and the squeeze on household incomes means the offer of £1200 is a relative pay cut. BT need to listen to its workforce and realise they are its greatest asset; they have a clear choice whether to prioritise shareholders or workers.

The CWU has made the case to BT that our members should get a 10% pay rise; this is just a fraction of BT’s profits – they can clearly afford it. Now is the time for BT to put people before profit. We have further negotiations in the coming days, if BT is not willing to make a decent offer, we will need to start preparations for a statutory industrial action ballot.”

A BT Spokesperson said:

“The backdrop to this year’s pay review is a highly unusual and challenging set of macroeconomics. Our operational delivery in the past year has been brilliant, although our financial performance has not been as strong. We are emerging from a two-year global pandemic which has created difficult trading conditions for our business and exacerbated a trend of falling revenue over each of the last five-years. … In proposing a consolidated flat rate approach we’ve tried to recognise the contribution of all our Team Member and frontline colleagues whilst directing proportionately more of the investment towards lower paid colleagues.”

The news comes only a few months after BT settled their last dispute with the CWU (here), which nearly resulted in a major national strike. Part of that agreement saw the operator commit to implement a pay increase for team members (and management teams) in the UK that was due to be awarded this year, but the deal was reached before the huge inflation surge.

At the time of last year’s agreement, BT said that the “precise details” of its pay proposal would be “determined nearer the time and will depend on various factors including business performance, economic outlook and inflation.”

Meanwhile, on the consumer side, BT recently hiked its prices to customers by 9.3% (here).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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30 Responses
  1. John H says:

    Can’t see how BT can offer anything other than 9.3% as that is their own price increase. Gouging your customer base always bites your arse.

    1. Mike says:

      Printing too much money has consequences.

    2. CarlT says:

      Quite easily. BT have other costs that have increased. There isn’t just a merry-go-round of cash in from customers, cash out to staff.

      Mike: random people using capacity because it’s there when the operator is paying as much as double digits per Mbps per month has consequences. Good to see the Facebook Diploma in Economics paying dividends.

    3. - says:

      ‘BT have other costs that have increased’. Genuine question.. what has increased at more than 9.3%? I can only really think of Power.., fuel and perhaps some materials slightly. Everything else I would suggest has not.. Lease payments, pension obligations etc will be unchanged.

      Morally I 100% agree with the OP less than 9.3% is just taking the proverbial. They would have more of a leg to stand on if they increased prices just by inflation rather than inflation plus 3.9%!

      ‘double digits per Mbps per Month’ BT is not paying anywhere near that anywhere in the country. Hard to see why you would think this. 100G national waves are around £1600.

    4. Sunil Sood says:

      @ –

      BTs pension scheme lump sum payments between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2023 of £2.7bn are:

      £500m paid in March 2021
      £900m by 31 March 2022
      £800m by 31 March 2023
      £500m by 30 June 2023

      There will also electricity/fuel costs as you mention – I think BT uses around 1% of all electricity in the UK.

      Then you also have higher commodity prices and Employer National Insurance increases. I presume the interest payments on BTs borrowing/debt will also be going up.

      I don’t work for BT so the above is off the top of my head. They may well have other areas where costs have gone down – I don’t know.

    5. An independent observer says:

      BT is guiding to reducing costs by £2bn over 4 years and for a big increase in profits for the year ahead… they can obviously afford 10%. The workers deserve it too.

    6. Rich says:

      @CarlIT yes, sure some other costs have gone up. Also sure some have come down. But putting wages up 9.3% doesn’t mean there is no money for that other stuff, unless it’s gone up more than 9.3%, as surely wages are at most, 50% of their costs.

      Other than energy, I’m not sure much would have.

      I mean, apparently the workers should just send BT an email saying they are putting their wages up 9.3%, that’s what BT did to customers.

    7. CarlT says:

      Wow.

      ‘‘double digits per Mbps per Month’ BT is not paying anywhere near that anywhere in the country. Hard to see why you would think this. 100G national waves are around £1600.’

      The data has to actually get to national networks in the first place? That’s where most of the cost is.

      ‘ I mean, apparently the workers should just send BT an email saying they are putting their wages up 9.3%, that’s what BT did to customers.’

      To which BT could decline and fire the workers, much as customers can leave due to heavy price hikes. Unless of course BT signed a contract to increase salaries at inflation + 3.9% each year in which case fair enough.

      ‘ Other than energy, I’m not sure much would have.’

      I guess you haven’t seen component costs recently. Add that to a roughly 30% increase in customer capacity usage.

      ‘Morally I 100% agree with the OP less than 9.3% is just taking the proverbial.’

      Morals don’t pay companies’ bills in increasingly competitive markets.

      If BT are such a poor employer, ripping their staff off, refusing appropriate pay rises, etc, there are plenty of other companies in the sector employing. Indeed the sector is crying out for people and they could potentially secure the salaries they believe they’re worth. Whether the package as a whole matches the BT one no idea.

      Welcome to our modern reality, where jobs for life don’t exist and if you want the best pay and opportunities taking some initiative is required.

      These guys have every right to collectively bargain and every right to industrial action if they don’t like what’s on offer. They don’t have the right to pay rises unless they are written into their contracts. None of us do.

  2. NoRight says:

    ‘There’s no money tree’ ‘living within our means’ and now ‘macroeconomics’, what a bunch of arse this country is.OR have been propping up BT Group for years. BT Global is the one that does it for me, it’s beyond a joke. Big Phil must have one of the easiest jobs in the country , close every office going, buy all the shares so the staff can’t , sell off OR and sail off into the sunset as a hero.
    Companies like BT need to get their head round , that now, after the disaster of brexit they can’t and will not get away with their sh**e. Now there concerned about the staff they employ on the lowest wages , we’ve seen this before, try and divide the workforce . The staff do need to stand up to this one . All staff in this county need to stand up to big business , oh, and the Tory government , but that’s a different story, similar though.

    1. A little advice says:

      @NoRight

      Staff have to look at themselves as well, easy to blame everyone else.

    2. Richard Branston says:

      Great political rant

  3. Libertarian says:

    Plenty of altnets are recruiting, people are free to leave BT and pick up a better salary elsewhere very easily

    1. Mike says:

      Yeah but that requires efforts, much easier to just cause trouble and moan at your existing company.

  4. Overbuild says:

    The majority of ‘Altnets’ will not be in existence in around 10 years time or less, hence they pay more. I’ve a friend who was actually told this in his interview.

    1. Sirius says:

      That sounds like concrete evidence you have there mate

    2. Martin says:

      I suspect the comments about Altnets are right. In most new industries, there is a flurry of start-ups. Think the home microcomputer “boom” of the 1980s, Sinclair, Acorn etc now mostly all gone think about cable TV companies – at first one per town or city now one company dominates that sector.

      The oncoming inflation and eventual rising bank rates will wipe some out, others will merge for economies of sale to try and survive.

    3. Winston Smith says:

      Acorn Risc Machines are very much still in existence, albeit with a name change.

  5. FibreBubble says:

    In short. The Union know what BT can afford and they are not there yet.

  6. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    I bet the Government would contact BT, on the quiet, and discourage them from giving an across the board 10% pay rise to their employees. If BT gives a 10% pay rise, then other unions would want the same, and companies would be under pressure to offer the same. In a high inflationary environment, a large company offering an above inflation pay rise, could start an inflationary wage spiral driving inflation higher over the long term, across all industry. There’s no way the CWU will get 10%, if they did the BOE would likely raise interest rates much faster, to head off a possible resulting wage/price spiral. If UK PLC is forced to give 10% pay rises, across the board, don’t be surprised when mortgage payments follow interest rates higher.

  7. Ryan says:

    Meanwhile, my employer offered a salary raise of .. wait for it ..

    £0

    Maybe I should cry to the press about it?

    1. FibreBubble says:

      Maybe you should look into joining a union.

    2. CarlT says:

      Or, Bubble, do what most do and look for another job. Given how in demand the skills these guys have are there shouldn’t be a problem, should there? Unless there’s something BT provide everyone else doesn’t of course.

    3. M says:

      Carl, BT offer long term job security and decent t&c’s. Two good reasons for people to stay there.

      Is there a good reason why employees shouldn’t fight for a better pay rise?

  8. Fastman says:

    this only relates to new grid (non managers) – any one who was in a managerial grade wont have had a general pay increase since 2019 i think from memory

  9. GOpenreach says:

    No pay rise last year and the year before that it was 1.15%. As it wasn’t backdated. 10% over three years is still below inflation on average. Not much to ask for.

  10. Paul says:

    The big plan that BT have is owning large stakes of these other alternative network building companies that are currently building in tandem with them, they then buy off the remaining shares and the network is amalgamated with theirs! And they achieve the govt build targets on time receiving a hefty cash bonus for doing so! They have saved over 1 billion pounds 18 months before they expected with their current cost cutting so they can easily afford to “level up” the staff pay seeing’s as they gave 1.5% in 2020 nothing except a £600 non consolidated bung in 2020, what’s the point in staff leaving in their droves to go to the competition for a decent wage, when the penny drops and BT see a sinking ship they’ll just up their pay to compete, just get the pay on level terms now and be done with it.

  11. Pete says:

    Virgin media staff have been given a 5% pay rise over the next two years. Unfortunately we don’t have a union to stand up for us.

  12. ERIC says:

    I work for OR. BT are ar****les we all think it and they are insulting us. Phil J is a p***k he will be gone in 4 years he doesnt care.

  13. Sadie says:

    Honestly I work there and the base rate for me is £20,000, they are offering a £1500 increase not £1200, a 9.3% increase would be £1860, not sure why they are advocating a strike for the equivalent of £360 to me since many companies aren’t giving 10% rise, maybe it’s the higher earners kicking off, then again it would’ve been easy for them to add an extra £360 to avoid a strike, not sure how I’m gonna vote yet as in the back of my mind I think if we get too antagonistic they can just move our call centres back to India

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