Rallying cry for Openreach members ends remarkable week of campaigning

Members across Openreach have delivered the clearest possible indication of their willingness to fight for a decent cost of living pay rise, with no fewer than 9.000 tuning in live to an online CWU mass meeting last night.

The event was the last of three hugely successful CWU Live question and answer sessions held this week to brief members on the BT Group-wide industrial action ballot that will commence on Wednesday next week (June 15).

As with the previous broadcasts, aimed at members in EE and BT on Monday and Wednesday respectively, numerous comments posted by participants revealed a razor sharp appreciation of the critical issues at stake –  notably the importance of standing firm in defence of pay being negotiated rather than imposed as a  fait-accompli by management.

“If we do nothing, BT will walk all over us,” one member observed. “We’ve never received a pay rise because we work for a generous philanthropic employer – it’s because of this union fighting on our behalf.”

Responding to risible claims by management that, despite Group-wide profits of £1.3 billion profit and dividend payments to shareholders totalling £761 million, the company cannot afford to pay employees a cost of living rise, another member commented: “The only thing the company can’t afford is for us to walk out. Compensation for everyday faults are not fixed, and penalties from Ofcom for failing metrics will pile up rapidly.”

Acting national officer for Openreach Fiona Curtis kicked off  last night’s broadcast with an impassioned explanation as to why members in Openreach deserve better.

“BT Group’s Annual Report states that ‘Openreach tirelessly kept millions of UK connections running at a critical moment in UK history, so customers around the country could work from home, attend online lessons and communicate with loved ones’ – and yet this company is not willing to pay you a decent pay rise. In fact, you’ve seen real term pay cuts for the last few years,” she began.

“Last year’s £1,000 one-off payment was not a cost of living pay rise, and neither was the 1.5% you got the year before – so in reality your pay is now worth less than it was in 2019.

“In 2022 Philip Jansen, the BT CEO, has seen a 32% increase in his previous year’s income, and the chief financial officer has also seen an increase of 25% on the previous year – so increases of more than double the rate of inflation are okay for them,  but they won’t even give you a cost of living pay rise!”

“There comes a time when we simply have no choice but to send a loud, clear and powerful message to the company that enough is enough,” Fiona insisted.

CWU president Karen Rose agreed: “We don’t take decisions to ballot for industrial action lightly,” she stressed, “but we really had no choice because of what the company has done – simply deciding what it wants to pay, disregarding your need for a rise that keeps pace with the cost of living and imposing that without giving you opportunity to have your say.”

Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr reinforced the existential threat posed by imposition: “What’s changed here is the fundamental approach and outlook of those now at the top of the company,” he stressed.

“In past there was a willingness to try to work through disagreements – but it takes two to tango, two to negotiate, and to negotiate you need to be willing to compromise.

“Now, however, as shown through imposition, it’s their way or no way….and that’s something the CWU will never accept.”

  • View last night’s CWU Live for Openreach members on catch-up here