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29 Jul 2022

Sophia Waterfield, Tech Monitor

UK: Over 40,000 BT workers strike over 'real-term pay cut' as company announces £500 million profit

"BT strikes 2022: Over 40,000 staff walk out as company announces £500m profit", 29 July 2022

BT Group engineers and call centre workers are taking to the picket lines today (Friday July 29) and Monday to strike over what they consider a real-term pay cut after negotiations between the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the telecommunications giant failed to halt strike action. It is the first national BT strike for 35 years.

The strikes come the same week that BT Group released its quarterly financial results for the three months to the end of June, which saw the company bank £500m in profits...

The CWU...says that the dispute between workers and BT relates to the company’s offer of a flat-rate pay rise, while executives are taking larger raises and the cost of living rises.

“Earlier this year, BT offered and implemented a £1,500 per year pay increase for employees,” the CWU said. “In the context of Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation levels hitting 11.7% last month, this is a dramatic real-terms pay cut."...

... the workers who are walking out look after the vast majority of Britain’s telecoms infrastructure, from “mobile phone connection, broadband internet and back-up generators to national health systems, cyber security and data centres”...

A BT Group spokesperson told Tech Monitor that the company will not be reopening 2022 pay review, saying that it has already made “the best award we could”. They explain that the company is balancing the “complex and competing demands of its stakeholders” which includes investments to upgrade the country’s broadband and mobile networks.

“While we respect the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike, we will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected,” the company spokesperson said. “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.”

BT has said that it will postpone any “non-essential planned engineering of software updates” similar to what the company did at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and during holidays such as Christmas.

“Our continuity and resilience processes have been well rehearsed over the last two years. At the start of the pandemic, we saw a near doubling of data traffic over our core network because of the mass shift to home working,” the company said...