At this year’s Communication Workers Union (CWU) Conference, BT workers announced a ballot on strike action over pay... for the first time in 23 years!
This is as a consequence of a collapse in negotiations on the issue (due for resolution on 1 April). BT had offered a below inflation pay increase of 2%, a breaking of the link with pensionable pay, and a performance related element.
All this issues are “show stoppers” for the union.
BT management appear emboldened by the recent General Election result. When their annual profits were announced (£5.78 billion, up by 6%) there was no move in their negotiating position as had been expected. BT also reported annual cost savings of up to £1.7 billion (mainly through voluntary redundancies) and dividend payments to shareholders of 6%.
This standoff between the BT Board and CWU now threatens to escalate. And BT is one of the few national companies in the private sector that is well unionised.
In the past couple of years the current “Effective Left” (sic) leadership of the Telecoms Executive of the CWU has not inspired confidence in the members. We have seen a series of shoddy deals including massive reductions in the worth of pensions in 2008 and a truly dreadful agreement on attendance patterns in BT OpenReach in 2009. However industrial logic means that a fight on pay maybe unavoidable.
The deadline for the final management response is 4 June. Watch this space.
• CWU conference also discussed moving to biennial elections for the National Executive (this policy was passed) and a biennial conference (a policy defeated).