Telecoms giant BT is facing an increased threat of industrial action after workers said they would support having a vote on strikes in a dispute over jobs and conditions.
A consultative ballot of members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) returned a 97% decision in favour of moving to a formal vote on industrial action.
The union said more than 74% of its 45,000 members across the BT Group took part in the consultation.
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “For a long time, BT Group have been claiming that our union does not speak for the employees and that people are happy with the direction of the company.
As with so many companies across the UK, BT are only interested in being in line with market competition, profit and shareholder dividendsDave Ward, CWU general secretary
“This result shows how laughable those claims are and have always been. This moment should act as a reality check for management and it gives them one final chance to avoid a massive industrial dispute in 2021.
“Our members – many of them key workers – have made it crystal clear today that they will not support an agenda of compulsory redundancies, site closures and the race to the bottom on terms and conditions.
“The CWU will be seeking an urgent meeting with BT to resolve this dispute and avoid disruption to the great service our members provide and customers receive.”
CWU general secretary Dave Ward added: “As with so many companies across the UK, BT are only interested in being in line with market competition, profit and shareholder dividends.
“Our union has a different vision – one of secure, well-paid, UK-based jobs, good terms and conditions and a service the UK can be proud of. We are today giving management the opportunity to return to the negotiating table with a serious offer to resolve this dispute.
“The message from our members could not be clearer – the ball is in BT’s court.”
A BT spokesman said: “To adapt our business to meet the changing needs of our customers and remain competitive, BT is going through a period of immense change and investment to modernise for the future, including building faster, more reliable networks.
“Once complete, we will have a much simpler operating model with fewer people and we’ll be better able to serve our customers.
“For the most part, we will not fill roles as and when they become vacant and we will prioritise providing retraining and reskilling, learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.
“Our colleagues told us the ability to volunteer to leave BT is important to them. So, we have reaffirmed our commitment to use our voluntary paid leaver arrangements to minimise the need for redundancy.
“Although not statutory, we take the result of the consultative ballot seriously. We know that organisational change such as this is difficult and we’re consulting with unions at every step along the way.”