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Over 40,000 BT staff set for first national strike in 35 years

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Two days of strikes by BT workers have been announced (BT/PA) (PA Media)
Two days of strikes by BT workers have been announced (BT/PA) (PA Media)

More than 40,000 workers at BT are set to hold a two-day strike - the first time that the company has suffered national industrial action in 35 years.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said its members would strike on 29 July and 1 August, a move it claimed would likely have “serious effects” on the roll-out of uultra-fast broadband and could cause problems for those working from home.

The strike was called after 96% of Openreach engineers and 91% of CWU members who are BT workers voted in favour of a walk-out in response to the £1,500 per annum pay rise for employees.

The union said the offer was “far below inflation” and amounted to a “dramatic real-terms pay cut when compared to RPI inflation levels of over 11%”.

It stated that the strike was occurring at a time when BT had recently posted pre-tax profits of £2 billion, with boss Philip Jansen securing a 32% wage increase to £3.5 million due to bonuses and share awards.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said: “For the first time since 1987, strike action will now commence at BT Group.

“This is not a case of an employer refusing to meet a union’s demands – this is about an employer refusing to meet us whatsoever.”

He added that the striking workers, including those in what will also be the first national call centre workers’ strike, had been those who “kept the country connected during the pandemic”.

“Without CWU members in BT Group, there would have been no home-working revolution, and vital technical infrastructure may have malfunctioned or been broken when our country most needed it,” he added.

“Our members worked under great difficulty – and  got a real-terms pay cut as a reward.”

A BT spokesperson said while the firm “respects the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike”, it would work to “minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected”.

“We have tried and tested processes for large scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers and these were proved during the pandemic,” the spokesperson added.

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