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Awkward Timing as BT Call Centre Sets up “Food bank” for Staff

Friday, June 24th, 2022 (10:21 am) - Score 4,776
BT Staff and Recruits UK

Telecoms and broadband ISP giant BT, specifically EE’s call centre in Newcastle, appear to have demonstrated a surprising level of poor timing after a food donation point for staff was setup that looks and sounds a lot like a food bank. The move was revealed just as a ballot on national strike action over pay occurs.

According to the Big Issue, the “Tyneside CommunitEE pantry” enables EE’s employees to donate and take bags of oats, instant noodles, dried pasta, cereal, and even baby food etc. On the one hand, this was setup as a kind gesture by colleagues at the Newcastle call centre to help when you “don’t have time to visit the supermarket” and it’s “those last few days before pay day, and you need something for tea“. Fair enough.

However, the fact that it works kind of like a food bank, even though BT says it totally “shouldn’t be confused with a food bank“, is largely irrelevant to some of their staff and wider critics. The optics, as marketing people might say, don’t look good and some of the operators staff have complained that it normalises in-work poverty.

A BT spokesperson said:

“Some colleagues have set up donation collection points at several offices to pass on donations to local food banks. In addition, at our North Tyneside office, following an idea from frontline colleagues, a small collection of household items is available for colleagues who don’t have time to visit the supermarket or who are working outside of the canteen opening hours. Colleagues then replace the items for others to use and this shouldn’t be confused with a food bank.”

We’re proud of the proactive and generous actions our colleagues take to support each other and their local communities.”

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be news, but the timing means that it’s occurring over the same period as the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents c.40,000 of the operator’s UK staff, are busy voting on strike action. In other words, perhaps not the best time to be opening a foodban.. CommunitEE pantry at the office. Common sense and PR agents could have told them that much.

BT settled their last dispute with the CWU during the middle of 2021 (here), which nearly resulted in a major national strike. But part of that agreement saw the operator commit to implement a pay increase for team members (and management teams) in the UK, which was due to be awarded this year and would “depend on various factors including business performance, economic outlook and inflation.”

A couple of months ago the operator said (here) they planned to award workers a £1,500 consolidated pay increase to their annual salaries. This would, BT claimed, represent an increase of up to 8% for some colleagues and more than 3% for even the highest paid frontline workers. But the CWU, which noted the rapidly rising level of inflation, promptly rejected that and moved to ballot on strike action.

NOTE: BT says its proposed pay rise is the “largest … in over 20-years” and will be awarded to 58,000 UK frontline and Team Member colleagues across BT Group, including engineers (Openreach etc.), contact centre and retail workers.

The CWU warns that BT Group now faces “tremendous disruption” – and its first national strike in 35 years – as their employees hit by the cost-of-living crisis recently began to vote on all this, the result of which is expected next week (possibly Tuesday). As the CWU’s Andy Kerr said: “How can it be right that BT Group, a blue chip company, has set up a food bank for employees in its contact centres. Give them a decent pay rise, not charity.”

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26 Responses
  1. Blimey90 says:

    Food banks have sprung from being practically non-existent to widespread. There was grinding poverty in the 60s/70s but no need for widespread food banks. I wonder what the ratio is between those who genuinely don’t have enough money to feed themselves and those who see food banks as a convenient way of reducing their shopping bill(there have been reports of people in middle class jobs accessing food banks)?

    1. 125us says:

      What proportion of income did people have to spend on housing and commuting in the 60s and 70s?

    2. - says:

      This kind of comment really grinds my gears. A customer advisor at bt Newcastle is on £10.52 a hour, pre tax. I’m wondering to myself if you’ve any comprehension on what living on those kind of wages is like? Imagine if you were a parent or even single parent trying to make it though on that? Real inflation is well into the double didgets now. Asking workers to take 3% pay rises and therfore about a 10% real terms pay cut may well be economically sound and sensible to combat inflation. It is however completely Immoral and is another example of how the common, working person pays a much higher price for these kind of economic events than those higher up. I think we should be increasing tax on higher earners and Corp tax inline with inflation and then also increasing the minimum wage at least in line with RPI and companies should commit to do the same for other low earners. Inflation is easier and more moral to deal with by targeting luxury goods/higher incomes.

    3. Life in 2022 says:

      Life in 2022 is not even close to being as bad as life in the 60s and 70s, the snowflakes of today think they have it hard but if they only knew how tough life was then.

      You only have to take their mobile phones of them now and they are at a total loss and can’t function.

    4. Mike says:


      Ahh yes, let’s tax people who make the correct decisions more and subsidise those who have kids they can’t afford…

    5. New_Londoner says:

      If I worked for BT Group, I’d be pushing my union to go for a pay rise that matched BT’s own policy on the annual price increase for broadband – IIRC RPI+3.9%.

    6. libertarian says:

      @- “costs of living are high so let’s increase taxes to make costs of living higher!!!”

      How about no.

      If anything the govt should be CUTTING taxes, NOT making the problem worse

      Also get yourself educated. Inflation happens when too much money was printed to chase fewer goods. Taxes have absolutely nothing to do with this equation

    7. - says:

      I’m not sure many will disagree that we printed too much money. It is what it is. Now we have to find a way of cooling agg demand; doing that by taxing people/companies who can afford it is much more moral than letting everyone pick up the tab via further increased inflation. By the way increasing tax (especially when used to pay down deficit) is great for reducing inflation, it reduces the amount of money and therefore demand for goods. Reasonably simple concept I would hope.

      The daily mail comment section is missing you

    8. PW says:

      Libertarian- there are generally four recognised drivers of inflation, one of them being money supply. The inflation we are seeing now is largely cost-push inflation, caused by increase in price of raw materials, or scarcity of them E.g. fuel, food, energy.

      I’m not one to argue for high taxes, but tax cuts would be a form of increasing the money supply, so if anything would make the situation worse, by increasing aggregate demand.

    9. Mike says:


      Stealing is not moral.


      To suggest higher taxes reduces money supply is suggesting government destroys wealth, the broken window fallacy comes to mind. Raising interest rates would be a better alternative imo.

    10. Life in 2022 says:


      I’m guessing you’re poor and proud of that achievement, expecting those who have done something with their lives to bail you out like your parent have had to in the past is not the solution.

    11. Libertarian says:

      Taxes do not help bring inflation down

      Saying cutting taxes causes more money supply is moronic. In other words, it is exactly saying that poor countries, or if everyone is poor then no inflation occurs which makes no sense

      Cutting taxes directly lowers costs of living and stimulates the economy, THUS bringing inflation DOWN

    12. John says:

      – Says “It is however completely Immoral…..”

      Its all well and good being indignant now, but what was your position when the gov was squandering billions on covid hysteria, paying people to stay at home, buying so many jabs there were 8 per person?

      The bill is now here, and it seems many who agreed with the gov now find they don’t want to pay it. Well tough, pity they didn’t speak up at the time and stop us all wasting the best part of 2 years of our lives.

    13. Mike says:


      Send the bill to all those who voted for pro lock down parties.

    14. NoHopeButASlimHope says:

      The ratio of real term housing costs when compaired to todays rates vs. the 60’s-70’s has increased massively.
      There are also ever greater demands on the avarage household budgets which simply didnt exist back in the 60’s and 70’s.
      A prime example of this are ISP bills & Mobile Phone plans, PPV Streaming services etc. There are similarities between what this current cost of living crisis is having upon us now in 2020 when compared to past economic crisis, say from through past crisis in the 60’s, 70’s 80’s.
      Also, We have just been through 10+ years of biting austerity cuts to services and stagnated wage growth which would be comparible to the end of 50’s, 60’s post WW2 Britan. What makes this current Cost Of Living crisis different from past ones is the global macro environment which led upto this current crisis, we have had a tripple whammy of Inflated Asset prices through years of QE (Asset Purchasing Scheme) coupled with years of cheap credit with base rates at or near zero bpts. Massive Geo-political instability (US. Vs Ch. Trade war & Tensions) Collapse of the finantial system circa 2007 which led to Euro zone crisis, Soverign bond crisis. Now more mass government borrowing to prop up the economy to take us through the pandemic couple with US/EU Vs RU + Ukraine question and the various sanctions packages put in place to combat Putin. visa ve inflation at the pumps. In Essence the macro economic and Geopolitical picture is different from 60’s and 70’s compared to todays crisis. Trust in institutions are faultering or have already collapsed, look at cryptocurrencies as the product of this collapse in trust in the financial system….

    15. Life in 2022 says:


      Have people not heard of living within their means? back in the 60s and 70s if you couldn’t afford something you went without it and priorities food and clothing first but those that think their PPV subscription, mobiles phones and hair extensions are essential don’t know what its like to really have it hard.

  2. James says:

    Bought my new ASU’s 15” laptop 12 years ago for £630.

    Just received an email from Apple, top of the range MacBook Pro 16” laptop for £6333!

    Just move the decimal point and they’ll pay…

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      To be fair, it’s £2,399 as the starting price for the M1 version at 16″, but that’s still expensive. Of course, Apple is in that “special” club where they’ve become more of a fashion product than a technology one.

      The Asus Vivobook Pro 16X is a better comparison at about £1,129 from ao today.

    2. Mike says:

      You can buy quite a powerful Asus laptop for ~£630 nowadays so I don’t see your point…

    3. JamesP says:

      Asus Vs Apple, guess it’s a bit like comparing a Peugeot to a Porsche?!

      Generic product vs a premium product?!

  3. A_Builder says:

    We do need to be careful that the cheap money asset bubble added to the price gauging, that is widespread, all under the cover of energy cost inflation doesn’t turn into a spiral.

    The inflation rate, on goods, will level off once energy prices start to receded back to pre-pandemic levels. Which they will after a rather painful winter.

    Clearly, the longer this pseudo inflation is around for the greater the risk of momentum creating a real spiral.

    1. Mike says:

      It will get worse until interest rates are raised significantly.

    2. A_Builder says:


      Actually all that needs to be done is to keep the cheap money flowing for consumer loans and cut off the supply of cheap money for asset speculation.

      The French are very successful at keeping consumer and SME borrowing cheap by having identified money streams.

    3. Mike says:


      Asset speculation largely kept the money out of the consumer sphere for the past decade, it’s now starting to spill over since the plandemic binge which is now causing consumer prices to increase.

  4. james smith says:

    mike ref ‘Ahh yes, let’s tax people who make the correct decisions more and subsidise those who have kids they can’t afford’ sarcasm, I suspect, if it is the most agreeable. In the past I’ve said that only singletons pay tax which is similair.—-Council tax as an example a solitary person gets 25% discount, but a 2 person propert in the same council tax band is easy enough to find so the singleton as allways gets the worst deal subsadiseing everyone else. Yes the same too with any standing chargees

  5. james smith says:

    in general if BT at newcast is haveing to have it’s own foodbank, then clearly they need to pay staff more. Though if staff are too busy to get to the shops then a collective shopping order with delivery to one address for splitting up is required

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