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BT issued deadline to avert strike

Telecoms giant BT is facing the first national strike by its staff in 25 years, after being given a deadline to improve a pay offer.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it will ballot up to 60,000 of its members for industrial action unless a 2% offer is increased by June 4. The union is holding out for nearer 5%, which it says is in line with inflation.

The decision by the union's national conference in Bournemouth was made just after BT announced its chief executive Ian Livingston received a bonus of £1.2m last year on top of a salary of £860,000, after hitting 142 out of a maximum 200 targets set by the company.

Mr Livingston was given a £50,000 pay rise last year, which would have taken his salary to £900,000, but he did not accept it at a time when BT froze the pay of staff, so it was postponed to this year. He is accepting a 2% rise on his £850,000 salary.

Andy Kerr, the union's deputy general secretary, said: "This is about fairness. We don't mind senior executives getting bonuses, but we want all staff to share in the success of the company.

"Staff have borne the brunt of the cost savings and have delivered the profits, but are being treated as a second-thought."

A BT spokesman replied: "We are disappointed by the CWU's decision to call a ballot but our door remains open."