Bank 1.5% pay rise to focus on bigger challenges, BT members urged

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Electronic ballot papers were despatched to members across BT Group yesterday (Monday) with an unequivocal  recommendation for acceptance of a  1.5% across-the-board pay rise for all CWU- represented grades.

The consultative ballot comes in the wake of intensive efforts by union negotiators to get the company to improve on the offer which, if approved by members, will come into effect on July 1 – three months later than the normal pay review date.

Despite repeatedly challenging both the quantum of the offer and the fact that, unusually, it is not backdated to April 1, the CWU has reluctantly concluded that BT’s point blank refusal to budge on either issue means talks have now reached the end of the road.

With the company adamant that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to predicted revenues – and that 1.5% is the most it can afford to pay as it presses ahead with a major re-organisation that could have profound implications for members across the country – the union has decided that fighting to improve a pay offer that, while low, still sits above the current volatile inflation rate, is not the biggest priority.

The union’s BT Committee has been guided by the outcome of an electronic survey of around eight in ten of the union’s entire BT membership in which 70% of respondents said they prioritised job security over pay rates.

Pointing out the unparalleled challenges the union faces in BT at present on that very issue, deputy general secretary Andy Kerr explains: “It’s now absolutely clear that BT is intent on implementing the biggest transformation programme we’ve seen in the company for many decades, and that we’re going to need to challenge their approach on multiple fronts.

Andy Kerr

“These include compulsory redundancies in Enterprise and potentially other areas of the business; future site strategies and potential closures stemming from the ‘Better Workplace Programme’; unagreed changes to terms and conditions for new starters; future redundancy terms for our members and a myriad of grading-related issues.

“As such, we believe the pay offer currently on the table needs to banked for members while we fight on to defeat greater threats and attacks. Our recommendation to accept should not be seen as a position of weakness. On the contrary it is to unite our strength and focus in opposition to the serious job security threats that we now face.”

On the narrow issue of pay, Andy stresses that, while the CWU firmly believes that those who have gone above and beyond to maintain the UK’s vital communications infrastructure at a time of national crisis deserve more than the 1.5% on the table, exceptional factors are at play that simply cannot be ignored.

“Whilst the union has made every possible effort to shift the company’s thinking on the 2020 pay round we have to acknowledge that the country has seen the biggest quarterly economic contraction since the financial crisis of 2008 – and we’d be foolish to think that BT sits in isolation of this,” he continues.

“Of course the CWU wishes the circumstances were different – but we have to be upfront with members that all possible discussions and escalation channels in respect of the 2020 pay rise have been exhausted. I’m certain that there is no further increase or positive movement to be achieved through negotiation – and members need to understand what that means when weighing up whether to accept or reject this offer.

“Above everything, however, I’d urge members to take stock of the wider issues facing them and their future employment security right now, and to place the union in a situation where it can challenge the company on these issues in a co-ordinated and united way,” Andy concludes.

  • The pay ballot, which is being conducted by independent scrutineer Popularis, will close on Thursday June 25 and the result will be announced the following day. Assuming the offer is ratified by members, the 1.5% increase will come into effect in July salaries. The CWU has sought and received assurances that the next pay review date  – April 1, 2021 – remains unchanged.