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Union fury at BT bonuses

Telecoms giant BT will face the threat of industrial action today after it publishes its annual report, which is expected to show increased bonuses for top staff.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) will discuss balloting its 60,000 members at BT after rejecting a 2% pay offer.

An emergency motion to the union's annual conference in Bournemouth warns of an industrial action ballot after BT “closed the door” on further pay negotiations.

The group recently announced £1bn in profits for the year to the end of March, which came as a marked improvement on the £134m loss a year earlier.

Chief executive Ian Livingston is entitled to a bonus of up to £1.6m — two times his £800,000 salary — if all financial targets are met.

The group's boss saw his pay frozen in 2009, although he received a £343,000 shares bonus last year despite the heavy losses.

Andy Kerr, the CWU's deputy general secretary, said: “This is blatant double standards. Staff at BT have borne the brunt of the cost savings through redundancies, changes to pensions and a pay freeze.

“All we're asking for staff is a fair share of the profits as a pay rise. If it's good enough for the managers it should be good enough for the staff.”

The emergency motion reads: “This conference is appalled by BT's failure through the 2010 pay review, to adequately reward the contribution made by CWU members to BT's ongoing financial recovery.

“While recognising that the CWU would prefer a negotiated settlement, BT appear to have closed the door on this by making an offer that results in a pay cut in real terms.”

Any national walkout would be the first since 1985, a year after BT was privatised.

A BT spokesman said: “We have made the CWU a very fair offer that is more generous than those accepted by the union elsewhere.

“Their members enjoy significantly better pay and conditions at BT than in many other comparable organisations and our offer will ensure this remains the case.

“We have offered a package that could see the lowest paid members receive up to 5.4% in pay and bonuses and that compares very well with the rest of the market. There will also be a further pay review for some staff in October.

“It should be remembered that BT is putting approximately £800m year into supporting its pension scheme which benefits CWU members among others.”