BT strike ballot scheduled for early June if no agreement reached

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT, EE, Openreach

Andy Kerr gives the company three weeks’ notice to halt its attack on the workforce, or face the prospect of a nationwide strike…

The first UK-wide industrial action in BT since 1987 will be on the cards unless company bosses “see sense,” warned CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr this morning, as he and CWU president Karen Rose headed into talks requested by the company in response to the groundswell of outrage from angry members across the country.

Both Andy and Karen stressed their thanks and praise for the “fantastic support” from the membership for the union’s vigorous ‘Count Me In’ campaign, which has, they insisted, been the key factor in forcing the business to seek negotiations.

And, in return for the company agreeing to pause its redundancy programme, the union has agreed to pause triggering the statutory industrial action ballot process.

“This is a small victory,” said Andy, in a live broadcast earlier. “We’re around the table now and we will work 24/7 over the next three weeks to make sure we get the right deal for all of you.”

But Andy assured the thousands of members watching that, unless sufficient progress is made in these talks, the union will “push the button” on a statutory national industrial action ballot of some 40,000 members working for BT, Openreach and EE at the beginning of June.

“We want a negotiated settlement, but if that fails, we will ballot in early June for industrial action,” he vowed.

And Karen echoed this message, saying: “If we can’t make the necessary progress, if we can’t reach an agreement protecting job security, then at the beginning of June we will be holding the ballot.”

And the message to members in the meantime is “keep up the pressure, keep up the campaigning, and keep up the momentum.”

Hosting the broadcast, CWU head of comms Chris Webb asked the audience to indicate their support for the union and members instantly replied, flooding the ‘comments’ section of each of the broadcast platforms with ‘I will vote Yes’ pledges and others urging unity and determination in the ongoing fight for justice.

Speaking afterwards, Chris told CWU News: “I thought the message from Andy and Karen came over extremely well and it was fantastic that so many people watched the sessions – nearly 10,000 from early indications, which is superb.

“And I was taken aback by the sheer enthusiasm of the ‘I will Vote Yes’ responses too. If you weren’t able to watch live, please watch the ‘highlights’ video or listen to the whole recording via podcast.”

Why are we in dispute with BT?

The CWU has a long track record of working with the company to introduce changes and keep BT and Openreach operational, modern and efficient.

But this has always been done on the basis of negotiation, of agreement, and crucially – without compulsory redundancies.

Where ‘surpluses’ have been identified in parts of the operation, there has always been the opportunity for affected workers to transfer to other parts of the company – or to take a voluntary severance package.

But the current leadership at the top of BT and Openreach have, over the past period, unilaterally torn up this longstanding arrangement and have, effectively, declared war on this trade union and its members, which has provoked this current dispute.

For well over a year now, company chiefs have forced through unagreed changes to the structure of the business and have put increasing numbers of hard-working employees onto their ‘at risk of redundancy’ lists.

If you are from a different part of the union, please give your full support and solidarity to our BT, Openreach and EE members in their struggle.