Telecoms engineer Photo: Johnnie Pakington/CC
Telecoms engineer Photo: Johnnie Pakington/CC

CWU member and Openreach worker

With RPI inflation heading to over 11%, and BT making £1.3 billion annual profit, bosses have imposed a flat-rate below-inflation £1,500 pay rise on CWU members, without agreement from the union.

Members across BT group (including EE and Openreach) are balloting for strike action, with ballots closing on 30 June.

This is the first nationwide strike ballot in BT since 1987. Historically, pay deals have kept up with inflation; instead bosses have attacked pensions.

Many new recruits start their career on ‘Workforce 2020’ terms and conditions, with lower pay and longer hours than older workers. Angry young engineers in Openreach are demanding the CWU does not agree anything less than 10%.

Workers have tasted victory after a partial union win over a personal travel time policy which meant engineers potentially driving their vans for two hours a day unpaid. The Repayment Planners’ strike in 2021 has also given confidence for more action.

In the desk-based roles, the mood is different. The collapse of the union’s ‘Better Workplace Campaign’, bringing redundancies and office closures, without a members’ ballot, has led to some disillusionment.

The union must campaign hard to win back this layer of workers; it will not be enough to simply rely on postal mail-outs, text messages and social media broadcasts alone to build bridges. While management try to create a generational divide in the workforce, reps are fighting hard to unite workers and to win the ballot. The CWU leadership must show that it is sincere on delivering concerted action.