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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2010

Union recommends BT pay deal

BT and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have agreed a three year pay deal which will be recommended to the union's members in a ballot.

Clive Walder, Birmingham, Black Country and Worcester branch CWU, personal capacity

The deal provides for a 3% pensionable and fully consolidated pay rise for this and the following two years, with the proviso that if the November 2011 inflation rate is either below 2.5% or above 3.2% an 'adjustment' to the final phase will be negotiated.

Although the industrial action ballot was cancelled before the votes were counted both sides were fairly sure that there would have been a 'yes' vote. This was no doubt instrumental in bringing BT back to the negotiating table. BT made the smallest offer which they believed the CWU would recommend to its members. The undoubted mood for struggle has been squandered by the union leadership at the first sign of a face-saving offer by BT.

If the likelihood of industrial action forced BT back into talks then it is clear that they could have got more than 3% by proceeding with a fresh industrial action ballot.

This deal brings the possibility of three successive years of pay cuts in real terms while senior directors and shareholders get well above inflation increases.

Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary, hailed it as a 'fantastic' deal but there is no prospect of BT workers increasing their standard of living before 2013 at the earliest! The fighting talk of the union leadership during the early part of the campaign has been shown to be just that - talk!

It is true that many members will see this offer as a significant improvement and it may well be accepted, particularly as there are guaranteed pay rises for the next three years.

Two vital lessons have been learned. Firstly, the threat of industrial action forced more money from the company and they had to abandon the pretence that they could only afford a miserly and non-pensionable offer. Secondly, and more importantly the need for a leadership that will lead industrial action for as long as the members are prepared to take it. That requires a new, left leadership.

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