24 March 2017

BT pay deal out to ballot

Members across BT are being urged to accept the company’s ‘full and final’ pay offer of 2.6% - a settlement which is backdated to January, fully consolidated and above the relevant (December) Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate of 2.5%.

The deal, which has been unanimously endorsed by the CWU’s BT Executive Committee, will be placed before NewGRID (including Workforce 2020) grade members in a consultative ballot that will open next Thursday (March 30), running until Tuesday April 11.

Outlined in detail to branches on Wednesday at a special pay forum in central London, the emergence of an offer that the union can recommend to members followed the breaking of a tense stand-off in talks stemming from BT’s earlier insistence that RPI was “out of date”, irrelevant and unaffordable. 

An earlier company offer of 1.8% had been summarily rejected by CWU negotiators in January, with the union warning that management should not take the huge contribution made by CWU members to the company’s success for granted.

Commenting on the revised offer - which responds to CWU concern about the pay gap between those recruited before and after September 1, 2014, by giving Workforce 2020 grades an additional consolidated £120 uplift on top of the 2.6% increase - deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “I’m absolutely convinced that we’ve pushed BT as far as we can, and that the offer now on the table is the very best that can be secured by negotiation.

“Although discussions between the CWU and BT over whether to use CPI or RPI as the appropriate inflation measure were fraught - at one stage reaching complete impasse - we stood by our guns and are pleased that we’ve secured an increase that is above the December RPI figure for everyone.

“Additionally the negotiating team had a mandate from last year’s Conference to use this pay round to start to close the pay gap between Workforce 2020 grades and those employed prior to September 2014 - something this offer also achieves.”

 

Pensions

For all NewGRID grade employees who were employed after 2001, when the defined benefit BTPS scheme closed to new members - and who are therefore predominantly members of the money purchase BTRSS pension scheme - the 2.6% award is fully pensionable.

For NewGRID grade team members who are members of the defined benefit BTPS scheme, however, only 0.7% of the award is pensionable.

Following difficult and extensive discussions with BT on this issue, the CWU negotiating team reluctantly concluded that exceptional pressures caused by the rising BTPS deficit, and a looming triennial valuation, meant that further efforts to make more of the award pensionable was likely to prove counterproductive.

“This is due to any increase in pensionable pay for BTPS members affecting future pension liabilities and the fact that full pensionability of the settlement would have required BT to make hugely increased pension deficit repayments - over and above the sizeable repayments BT is already making,” explains deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.

“In the spirit of securing the BTPS into the future, ultimately the CWU negotiating team decided that the partly pensionable element of this pay settlement for BTPS scheme - something BT has assured us is for one  year only - was something the CWU had to agree to this time round.

“It’s vitally important to remember, however, that this doesn’t not affect anyone who joined the company after the BTPS closed to new members in 2001 - the vast majority of whom are in the BTRSS,” Andy concludes. 

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