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BT awards tens of thousands of staff £1,500 as strikes end

BT has awarded tens of thousands of staff hit hardest by the cost of living crisis a £1,500 pay rise, bringing to an end a protracted and bitter dispute and the first national strike action in 35 years.

The telecoms company, which earlier this month said it would table a new pay deal to the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) after freeing up cash thanks to a government energy subsidy for businesses, is to give all staff earning £50,000 or less a year the permanent rise – a total of about 71,000 employees.

The deal means that all of BT’s approximately 58,000 frontline workers, including call centre staff and engineers, will benefit, as will about half of the managers in its UK operation.

The company, which said that, overall, 85% of its UK-based staff would benefit from the cost of living pay rise, employs about 100,000 staff in total.

“This award is based on the principles we have followed throughout this difficult period,” said Philip Jansen, the chief executive at BT. “It gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible, favours our lower paid colleagues, and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay.”

BT said the pay deal had been brokered with the support of the CWU, which represents about 40,000 of the company’s employees and will recommend that members vote in favour of the new offer at a consultative ballot next month.

Jansen has previously maintained that a surge in inflation, which is running at a 40-year high, and soaring energy costs fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, meant BT could not afford to further improve staff pay.

BT has also said it would still run a pay review for UK staff next year, but this will be pushed back from April to September to “take into account the cost of living pay rise”.

The company currently spends £4.8bn annually on salaries and pensions for its 100,000 staff.

In April this year, BT gave frontline staff a £1,500 pay rise that it said was its biggest award in two decades, despite the CWU rejecting the award.

The impact of the two pay rises means that staff will be between 6% and 16% better off, with a typical employee receiving 9% more pay, the union said.

The company has said the eight days of strike action held so far have had a “relatively modest” impact on costs, but admitted that about 40,000 homes missed out on having their broadband connections completed on time.

There are no more days of strike action currently planned by the CWU or Prospect, the union that represents management-level staff, which is also recommending that members vote to accept the deal.

“I wish to pay tribute to our members for coming out to strike in such serious numbers,” said Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the CWU. “Their determination has moved BT into a position where they could no longer ignore the case for a consolidated pay rise. Without such unity, the company would have offered a cost of living bung at the very best.”

Last year BT awarded frontline workers a bonus of £1,500 in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic. This comprised a £1,000 cash bonus and £500 in shares, which will be awarded after three years as part of the employee share scheme.