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Up to 38k BT and Openreach Staff May Strike as Last Minute Talk Attempt Fails

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022 (2:31 pm) - Score 11,496
BT UK Staff Standing Next to Bull

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has today, after BT rejected this week’s last minute talks proposal to reach a compromise agreement over pay, said they will formally serve notice on the UK telecoms and broadband ISP giant (inc. Openreach) of their intention to launch the first national strike in 35 years.

Just to recap. BT and the CWU reached an agreement last year (here), which saw the telecoms giant commit to implement a pay increase for team members (and management teams) in the UK during 2022. The deal would “depend on various factors including business performance, economic outlook and inflation.” As most people know, inflation has since gone through the roof.

BT recently announced that they planned to award workers a £1,500 consolidated pay increase to their annual salaries (up from an original offer of £1,200). The operator said this would be the “largest [pay rise] … in over 20-years” for 58,000 of their UK frontline and Team Member colleagues – representing an increase of up to 8% for some colleagues and more than 3% for even the highest paid frontline workers.

However, the Deputy General Secretary (Telecoms and Financial Services) of the CWU, Andy Kerr, who had previously called for a pay rise of 10% (for the c. 40,000 workers they represent) to recognise the “contribution our members have made to the business“, promptly rejected BT’s offer. Kerr warned that, given the surging level of inflation, the offer would have effectively represented a “relative pay cut“.

All of this was occurring at around the same time as BT’s CEO, Philip Jansen, opted – perhaps unwisely – to take a 32% increase in his overall remuneration package this year. In the end, the CWU balloted on strike action, which last week returned a vote in favour from staff at both BT and Openreach (here), while EE’s workers fell short of the government’s ballot threshold by just 8 votes and will not be included.

However, the CWU opted not to formally serve notice on BT of the strike action, which effectively gave the operator’s senior management one final opportunity to negotiate a settlement. Sadly, the clock for that just ran out, which has today resulted in the CWU saying they will now serve BT with formal notice of their intention to strike.

CWU Statement

“BT Group CEO Philip Jansen has turned down our offer of talks to avoid the first national dispute since 1987.

We will now prepare to serve notice for strike action.”

Just to be clear, BT has yet to receive the notice itself.

The Impact

BT says it has dedicated business continuity and resilience teams, which they claim will be able to keep any related disruption from the strike to a minimum. However, no commercial broadband and mobile operator can completely cover for strike action of this scale and magnitude, no matter what the PR folk may say.

The impact from this strike is thus likely to be similar to the initial outbreak of COVID-19, before sophisticated home working systems were introduced. In short, the operator’s services will continue to function, but we’d expect essential account and network repair tasks to take priority. But trying to contact and get a resolution from BT’s support team may be a much harder and slower task than usual, for as long as the strike continues.

As for Openreach, the biggest impact will no doubt be felt in terms of delays to new service provisions (installations), which typically affects hundreds of UK communication providers (ISPs etc.) – catching everything from consumer broadband services to high capacity Ethernet lines and Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA). Any planned but non-essential engineering work will also be postponed.

Such delays can be very costly, although the network operator may not provide compensation for this as it would be deemed a matter “beyond our control” (there’s usually a catch in contracts about such things). Naturally, the length and breadth of this impact will depend upon the CWU’s strike plan, which we’ve yet to see.

Despite the CWU serving notice, it’s worth highlighting that this is all about ratcheting up the pressure on BT ahead of the industrial action actually taking place. At the end of the day, there’s always scope for an 11th hour agreement, but time will tell.

A strike will be a very costly affair for BT, but then the operator will no doubt be concerned about future economic hits – linked to the precedent of agreeing to such a pay increase. Not to mention the knock-on impact for the UK economy as the threat of a wage-price spiral grows (i.e. a vicious circle that could make inflation worse and keep it high for much longer).

Consumers have already felt the impact from huge, often inflation busting, price rises in their broadband and phone services this year. But next year’s hikes are already shaping up to be eye watering.

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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.
Leave a Comment
42 Responses
  1. John H says:

    Well this price gouging mid contract does not help.

    Contracts now include an annual rise of CPI + 3.9% on the 31st March.

    2022 was a 9.3% increase, 2023 will be even higher.

    1. Crotchety says:

      To be honest, there is no justification for these sort of price increases. CPI+3.9% is a really bad way to do business,that would equate to around 14% rise. BT are already one of the most expensive providers, there needs to be a prices and incomes board to stop this level of profiteering. All providers seem to be jumping on the bandwagon now.

    2. Anon says:

      If they were forced to link the price increase to front-line employee wage increases they’d soon change their ways.
      Want to increase prices by 14%… no problem, pay your front-line employees 14% more then!

  2. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    It was unlikely that BT would give in to the Union, as Jansen had already signalled as much. The lower paid workers will likely suffer the largest hit, from striking, and reap the least reward should BT and the CWU later reach an agreement. Someone on £20,000 a year has seen a pay rise of £1,500 (7.5%); After striking, and assuming the Union settle for say 8% during negotiations, the lower paid workers on £20,000 will have lost pay and pension benefits for days off on strike, for an extra 0.5% (£100) a year pay rise, or a mammoth £1.92 extra per week.
    It looks as though the lower paid workers are being asked to sacrifice significantly more pay, than they’ll gain from striking, even if BT gives in and reaches a settlement with the CWU. The only ones who may benefit from a strike, should BT give in, are the older better paid Engineers who are probably within sight of retirement anyway.
    If the CWU are demanding 10%, and signalling a willingness to negotiate, then it stands to reason that they’d be willing to accept lower, which is why I used 8% in my example above.

    1. Andrew says:

      Older workers will not gain as they will be out the door soon younger will benefit from a wave rise for many years.You muppet.

    2. Paul Bunting says:

      CWU Have never demanded 10% !
      Workforce have quoted 10% nothing less but that’s the workforce not the union .

    3. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      “Older workers will not gain as they will be out the door soon younger will benefit from a wave rise for many years.You muppet”

      Clearly that isn’t the case. Using the 8% example, the younger workers on £20,000 a year would see their pay increase by an extra £100, above the current £1500 pay rise, so very little increase, whereas someone on £50,000 a year would see their pay increase by £2500 a year, on top of the current £1500,or an increase of £4000 in total per year.
      I don’t know what the score is with the BTPS; If it isn’t frozen for the older existing members, then an 8% wage increase may also raise the pensions of the Engineers nearing retirement.
      I would suggest that the lower paid workers will see minimal benefit from striking, since any increased pay rise wouldn’t compensate them for loss of wages and pension benefits due to strike days missed.
      So who are the Muppets having their strings pulled?

    4. Mllewis2 says:

      It is the young engineers who largely voted for the strike , they can see the terms and conditions being squeezed at a time of record profits and and new intake coming in on worse contracts. Traditional career progression and promotion are an afterthought.
      Tech apprentices coming out of their time are given manager gradings , a deliberate attempt to undermine the CWU but it could backfire because Prospect the managers Union are becoming increasingly militant , unheard of..
      The old guard are now the minority in their 50’s and largely retired .
      Its looking like a perfect storm.

    5. Life in 2022 says:

      @Ex Telecom Engineer

      I think it’s clear who the muppets are, the ones who signed up more recent to poorer conditions, clearly not the old guard 🙂

  3. Ribble says:

    Delays caused by a national strike that the business did not even attend talks to avoid should not be classified as MBORC

    1. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      There’s a good chance BT have strike action listed as a specific Matter Beyond Our Control, within all their contracts. Something else to consider, is the Union specified talks should only take place if BT were willing to significantly increase the size of the pay rise, when BT had already stated they couldn’t afford to increase it beyond the already awarded £1500.00, which was an increase on the original £1200.00 offer.
      I’d be very surprised if a company like BT, with high Union membership’s, wouldn’t have contractually protected itself against strike action.
      It isn’t clear what the impact of a strike would be, as Network Freezes at Christmas, or during events like the Olympics, actually leads to a significant reduction in the number of Network faults.

  4. Alja says:

    I suppose the AltNets will still be able to use the ducts and poles to roll out out FTTP, so altogether things should continue to move along.

  5. altnet employee says:

    this is great news and will put a dent on openreach fttp rollout mwahahaha

    1. Unlucky Openreach says:

      love it

    2. Matt says:

      Unlikely. A good chunk of the work is subcontracted anyway, and all that will happen is post-strike there will be a push to get things back on schedule.

      Usually when strikes like this happen the frontline workers end up slightly shafted as they don’t usually get as good as the union say they will, and they still have to catch up on X days of none-work.

  6. Fastman says:

    dont assume that everyone is a member of CWU or a union — i certainly wasnt for 95% of my career

    1. Lucy says:

      Did you take nil percent of pay rises then

  7. Granger says:

    So BT put out prices up by more than inflation to supposedly cover costs that have increased in inflation. Surely their biggest cost is staff and therefore the staff should get the cpi inflation increase we have just been charged otherwise all BT are doing are increasing their profit margins.

    1. Telephone engineer says:

      BT wage costs are down 6%

      Dividends and share buy backs are up over 1200% ceo pay up 32%

      Its not a case of can’t afford. It’s a case that Jansen wants to show what a tough guy he is.

    2. JOLLY says:

      BT’s consumer unit increased its prices in line with inflation. Consumer only has a fraction of the company’s employees. Also it only has a fraction of the consumer market so the single increase to its customer base in consumer does not earn enough to increase the wages for the entire BT Group consisting of over 58,000 people

  8. Old and wise engineer says:

    I feel sorry for the lambs being led to strike by their union, doing this to try and stay relevant. The CWU national team will not be sacrificing their wage !!! The BT engineers strike in ‘87 failed, and they had less stable equipment then, I feel sorry for the engineers following this madness.

    1. Dave says:

      The so called lambs on £24k basic, sick pay terms halved, work an extra hour a week,have to give travel time equating to weeks of unpaid travel,less holidays , the newer recruits over the last 3 years all have a clause that they can be let go at anytime over the next 3-5 years. Just a few reasons why the Lambs are actually more militant than the old handss

    2. Paul says:

      Then 1987 Now 2022 a lot has changed different technologies
      Then it was about Phones now it’s BB Whole new board game as many rely on BB from home .

    3. The 30 says:

      This lamb is protecting his terms and conditions for the future, because imposition and degradation in my terms and conditions will affect me far more than the old hands. Sitting on the fence you’ll only get splinters in your arse.

      This action has been a long time coming. That’s what happens when you oppress pay to the point that working in supermarkets is comparable to the entry level pay of a skilled and dangerous job.

    4. Old and wise engineer says:

      The most effective thing you can do is vote with your feet and find another job that pays more, these companies are not a prison. It’s an employee’s market at the moment so go find a job that pays more for your skills. Maybe become a nurse or school teacher….. ahh there’s the flaw… no other role pays more… but.. you want more? Hmm… and sympathy of the general public for being paid more than most? If you can’t find another company paying more for your skills, maybe the rate for you is right…
      You’ll also have zero impact on BT management decision… you will lose…you’ll just be throwing away your wages on a pointless fight, also there will be a large proportion of engineers that will not follow the other lambs, so they’ll manage the small amount of issues that arise.
      I said lambs earlier.. actually I’ll correct that.. lemmings more appropriate.
      If you’re unhappy with your wage, you don’t cut your income through striking.
      The militant lemmings will go with less this year, but will feel great for it :-/

  9. Moss says:

    I thin everyone should strike t this point across all sectors, CEOs are doing a rubbish job of paying a fairwage/salary o workers on the lower to mid-end

  10. Ell says:

    What I think is a poor decision is the one by Jansen to give himself a 32% pay rise because if BT can afford to do that then they can afford to pay their front line staff a mere 10% pay rise.

    By doing that, BT have shot themselves in the foot as they have no excuse not to pay front line staff a decent wage not after a huge pay rise to the CEO who already is paid a lot of money.

    1. T says:

      It was a renumeration package. He hit his targets, he got his bonus. It’s not a pay rise. Also the £1,500 was awarded to people over 20k. Newer starters who say may be on 19.4k got their salary topped up to 20k at the beginning of the year and then whatever was remaining was added on more recently, meaning that person would be on 20.9k. Personally as an existing employee who had pay rises based on performance I’d be rather annoyed if someone who started 6 months ago ended up on the same pay as me instantly. No way to please everyone and the pay rise is generous albeit not fully aligned with inflation. However for call centre jobs, not many others if any at all come close to the pay/starting salary and existing salary at BT – that coupled with things like free parking adds up. You save money elsewhere.

  11. Dave harding says:

    Since the start of Covid BT group have not paid any consolidated pay increases, there is a 2 tier contract where newer team members earn circa £6k less per annum basic , they are not installers like sky or virgin who just swap faulty equipment , they install and fault using highly technical diagnostic equipment, not just battery,earth or loop faults , but also high speed data faulting ( it takes years to be fully competent and skilled) . They worked throughout Covid 24/ 7 in all weathers . Keeping the UK as a whole working , The CEO and CFO both had renumeration rises of 32% and 25% respectively this year alone !!, Jansen has amassed in 3 year over £6m in shares , they paid out over £750m in dividends this year , the company share save has been cancelled again (3rd year) yet Jansen and others committed their multi million pound bonuses into shares over the last 3 yrs and then issue a dividend hmmmm. So to reiterate no physical payrise for 3 years( a forced payment this year between 2.2 to 4.8% depending on contract and grade) , a 2 tier contract system, redundancy payments massacred, hundreds of highly skilled office staff losing their jobs due to office relocating , meaning new employees on worse of on the new contract ,team members actually having to use food banks , The CEO stated he will speak to anyone live on a workplace social media site yet then refuses to talk. Not one person within the group want to strike as we all know no body really wins , but when you are continously having you’re pay and conditions eroded whilst the top casually fleece the company of millions off the back of your hard work, the time has now come to say enough is enough ! ,whilst the nation where out clapping every Thursday at 19.00 hrs hundreds of us where out mostly over night keeping you and the UK in Comms, non wanted thanks or recognition,but after 3 year at least a decent rise rather than a smack in the teeth,

    1. Ell says:

      Exactly this, Jansen shouldn’t have taken the 32%, not in today’s business climate of costs of living going up.

      A dumb move by the CEO.

  12. Disgruntled Employee says:

    I am being made redundant by BT my role is being outsourced to India, this is the third time in my 26 year career I’ve had to seek a new role through outsourcing. I’ve put up with bullying managers to the point I had to be counselled for suicidal tendencies.
    I am now on the scrap heap, BT has been going downhill rather quickly for the last five years, they have now changed the internal comms called BT today to remove any negative feedback.
    We have had sharesaves cancelled, Managers are paid less than team members, you’re expected to then train the people taking your job, Redundancy payment has been cut, but ridiculously you have people being kicked out the same time as you on double the leaver pay you’re getting. I have never agreed with the union on anything, and I’ve always been of the belief it actually costs to strike, so why bother but now we are being ran into the ground, morale is at the lowest I’ve ever known it. So yes if asked I will strike, even though I’ve nothing to benefit from it, if only to show we are people and not a series of numbers on a profit and loss sheet. I say strike one and all.

    1. Aictos says:

      This is wrong, why can’t BT employ more UK staff rather then outsourcing aboard to save money…

    2. Fastman says:

      really

      sharesaves were cancelled for about one or two years as they did not what a repeat of whats become known as 61p club in 2010 (i was never savy enough to invested in that share save and did know at the time whether i even wanted to stay in the business as that time — (you dont day if you were a member of 61 p club – which topped out a circa £3.80 payout for a buy price of 61.p)over of 5 year period some made a fortune and it cost BT millions and i know a number of people retired / left on the spot / gained extensions / paid off mortgage.

      Directshare was still there in 2020/2021

      constant change is the only constant — and that change gets more constant the more senior you were

    3. phoenixw says:

      Just wanted to wish you well – I’ve had my job taken by the outsourcing trend twice in my career and I bounced back, you will be too.

    4. Ad47uk says:

      I don’t know what job you did at BT, I hope you can find something else from a better company. This is the problem with companies trying to save money, and they save that money on getting rid of people, but the top knobs still get their pay rises.
      Sadly, it is the same for all large companies.

  13. Mlewis2 says:

    That will be the fancy new BT Today internal web site just rolled out with a massive security flaw.
    Thats what happens when HR run a tech business and have Jansens ear.

  14. j Bloggs says:

    It will be interesting to see how long Mr Jansen lasts when targets are not being hit.
    I do hope his broadband isn’t effected by these strikes.

    1. simon says:

      I hope companies half way through getting. private circuit are not affected either.!

  15. Ad47uk says:

    But trying to contact and get a resolution from BT’s support team may be a much harder and slower task.

    Can it get any harder and slower? Unless they have improved over the last few years and from what I have heard they have not

    1. Mlewis2 says:

      The race to reduce costs and offshore work has resulted in a fragmented approack to technical and back office services. Offshore staff quality varies as indeed it does in the UK but always a high turnover ,always pedantic ,and always inflexible causing for instance fault loops where there is an obvious fault but everything tests right and nobody thinks outside the box or is held accountable. Fibre planning has been largely ofshored to India, done remotely no surveys.
      One side effect that Janson has overlooked is that these were traditionally office job progression roles for field engineers as they got more experienced got promoted , got sciatica etc , no longer an option the new BT Openreach wants you to climb poles well into your 60’s and no perceived slacking or corner cutting.,suspension awaits and thats if they want you at all.
      Meanwhile you get teamed up with a new adult starter , all five foot and 8 stone , recuited by a woke HR that refuse to see that the physical side of the job is more akin to that of a fireman than a barista , the ladders and equipment are so heavy.

  16. Karlos says:

    There are so many other broadband companies that will be rubbing there hands together ready to jump all over new sites, unless a quick resolve is not found quickly…it will be very damaging for BT, it’s so important to meet deadlines fsd,and the like, Philip Jansen won’t be a popular guy, I wonder who our next leader will be in the very near future…..

  17. Wibble says:

    The BT Board is obsessed with cost cutting on labour rather than growing the business with predictably poor results. On top of that the CEO is paying himself a third more. I think that sends a clear message and not a positive one.

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