Steely determination and undented resolve as BT Group strike hits day eightTelecoms & Financial Services, BT, Openreach October 24 2022
Yet another rock-solid display of workforce fury across BT and Openreach is underlining the folly of senior management’s presumption that battle fatigue and financial pressures would sap the will of employees to continue fighting for a fair pay rise.
Today (Monday) around 40,000 CWU members are embarking on their eighth day of all-out strike action – demonstrating undiminished workforce disgust at the steadfast refusal of BT Group to reconsider the real-term team member pay cuts that have triggered the first national industrial action in BT Group for 35 years.
Following the company’s stonewalling of repeated CWU appeals for a return to the negotiating table to achieve a fair and just settlement of an increasingly bitter pay dispute, the union is now embarked on a co-ordinated programme to up the ante.
This includes plans to reballot the entire workforce including members in EE –announced in a special Facebook Live broadcast on last Tuesday night – and a specially convened meeting with some of BT’s largest institutional investors which took place this afternoon.
With BT’s ludicrous claim at the start of the dispute that workforce anger over its imposed below-inflation pay settlement was limited to “around 30 disaffected employees” clearly disproved, it’s the voices of grassroots CWU members that best illustrate the determination of CWU members to keep up the fight for as long as it takes.
“There’s definitely a very strong resolve to carry on with the strike action,” stressed Service Delivery engineer James Mason from the Epsom picket line.
“People are fighting for what they deserve. The business seems to have forgotten that, without us, they don’t make any profit and shareholders won’t be getting any dividend payouts. We were key workers throughout the pandemic but have been neglected for far too long.
“Not one member of my team is wavering, and it’s not just about the pay for us now. Look at what’s happening over in Royal Mail with their terms and conditions being completely attacked and violated. What’s to say that if we don’t stand firm on this BT aren’t going to do exactly the same to us?”
Fellow Openreach engineer and South London, Surrey and North Hampshire Branch member Jonathan Young agreed: “My message to Philip Jansen is get round the table and listen to your employees. How can he possibly justify to himself, let alone the shareholders and the public, giving himself a 32% pay rise while saying the company can only afford to give the workers a bit over 4% on average.”
The Service Delivery patch lead continued: “We’ve come this far now and we’ve proven we’re going to stick this one out. I’m not saying it’s easy for anyone – we’ve all got bills to pay, there’s Christmas coming up and we’re all suffering – but we simply have to show this company we mean business.”
United in disgust…
The same message of steely resolve is today being broadcast loud and clear at hundreds of picket lines across the country.
In Glasgow 999 call handlers – some of BT’s lowest paid workers – are once again demonstrating their outrage at a company that would appear to have lost any vestige of a moral compass.
“They don’t seem to appreciate anything we did throughout the pandemic and in 43 years with BT I’ve never felt so undervalued,” stresses Catherine Ronald(pictured second from right).
“We know that people depend on the service, but the way we’re looking at this is that it’s not us putting lives at risk – it’s the senior management in BT and the CEO. They know they could have stopped the 999 operators going out by coming back to the table, but they didn’t even try.”
Fellow Scotland No.1 Branch member Sharon McLeish (pictured second from left) – a single mum who had to reject last year’s lump sum ‘thank you’ payment because of the impact it would have had on her Universal Credit – agrees: “The calls we were getting (at the height of the pandemic) were horrendous – with 10, 15 and 20 minutes waits trying to put people who couldn’t breathe through to the ambulance service. It was just constant, we were living it. What’s happened on pay this year is just the final slap in the face.”
Erin Kelly, also a single mum working on 999 at Alexander Bain House, continues: “The managers on 999 calls today are probably on triple what we get paid! I love my job, but even with the Universal Credit top-ups I can’t survive. I have to borrow off my mum and my sisters every month and give it back when I’m paid – it’s just a vicious circle.”
Claire Gallagher tells a similar story: “It’s not just people having to use foodbanks; it’s also people having to borrow money off friends and family to get them through. I’ve been in that situation myself – and I’ve heard of people having to take annual leave at the end of the month because they cannot afford the petrol to come into work.
“Enough is enough, and something simply has to be done. I really don’t think people are going to give up now that they’ve come this far.”