Belfast Telegraph

BT staff prepare for strike vote

Workers at telecoms giant BT are to start voting on whether to take strike action in a row over pay.

The Communication Workers Union is balloting thousands of its members at the firm in support of a 5% pay claim, saying BT can well afford the increase after making profits of over £1 billion.

The ballot is going ahead despite moves by the firm to avert industrial action, including a new pay offer it said was worth 5.1% over 21 months, several additional one-off payments and guarantees on job security.

Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the CWU, said: "We are seeking an affordable and reasonable pay rise for our members in BT who have contributed heavily to the success of the company during a difficult couple of years.

"We are amazed at the aggressive attitude of BT bosses in the face of blatant double standards. The company's claim that a 5% pay rise for staff would lead to cutting back and making redundancies is an unbelievable fat-cat excuse - it would cost 3.6% of available cash flow, hardly breaking the bank.

"Our members have had a pay freeze, pension changes and redundancies over the last two years but now the company is profitable, inflation is high and BT is paying out big money to shareholders and senior executives. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for our members.

"We're confident that our members will vote yes in this ballot, despite the scare tactics of the company. It's time that BT recognises that you can't treat staff like second class citizens.

"We of course remain open to meeting BT to discuss any improved offer on pay for this year. There hasn't been a strike in BT since 1987 and we hope that there will not be need for one in 2010."

The union warned BT that any legal challenge to the ballot would not solve the dispute and would worsen the "already deteriorating" industrial relations.

The ballot closes on July 5.