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BT and CWU reopen negotiations over pay dispute

BT has re-entered negotiations with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) to hopefully settle the ongoing pay dispute with up to 38,000 employees, which has so far resulted in 8 days worth of national UK strikes. The move comes only a day after the operator’s CEO, Philip Jansen, described the matter as “closed” and seemed to reject further talks.

The core dispute relates to BT’s pledge to award workers a £1,500 consolidated pay increase to their annual salaries earlier this year (up from an original offer of £1,200). The operator said this would be the “largest [pay rise] … in over 20-years” for 58,000 of their UK frontline and Team Member colleagues – representing an increase of up to 8% for some colleagues and more than 3% for even the highest paid frontline workers.

However, the Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, Andy Kerr, who had previously called for a pay rise of 10% to recognise the “contribution our members have made to the business”, rejected the offer and warned that, given the surging level of inflation, it would have represented a “relative pay cut“. Kerr also noted that BT’s CEO had, at the same time as all this was occurring, awarded himself a 32% pay increase.

A string of strikes has since followed the failure to reach an agreement, and meanwhile inflation has continued to surge and is now expected to remain higher for longer than previously forecast. The expectation has been that a much longer and potentially more damaging wave of strikes would soon follow, possibly around Christmas, which might be something that BT would want to avoid or, at least, delay.

In a brief statement, BT confirmed that they “are in discussion with the CWU – as we have been throughout” and said that the talks would be “focused on building a unified and positive direction for the whole company“. The operator noted the challenging economic situation, but said they “remain hopeful that we can agree a way forward.”

However, it’s difficult to square this language with Philip Jansen’s tough talk only a day earlier, which suggests that reaching any kind of solid agreement could be difficult. At the same time, yesterday’s results also indicated that there could be more job losses further down the line, thus it may be wise for the operator to settle this dispute sooner rather than later. ISPreview

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