Socialist Worker

Pay backlash at BT

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2205

More than 50,000 British Telecom (BT) workers were continuing to prepare for a strike vote on Tuesday despite bosses making a small increase to their below‑inflation pay offer.

The highly profitable firm said it would “improve” on its original 2 percent offer with a two‑year deal.

But the new arrangement would be worth just 2 percent this year and 3 percent in 2011.

There would be an extra payment of £250, but this is subject to “performance”.

Leaders of the CWU union had not decided how to respond as Socialist Worker went to press. However, the revised offer falls well short of the union’s 5 percent claim. The CWU should not delay the start of the strike ballot process, which was due to be announced this week.

BT engineers, call centre workers and sales staff will be among those voting on strikes.

They are furious at BT—which made £1 billion in profits last year, and is handing shareholders a 6 percent dividend.

BT bosses are more than happy to line their own pockets. Chief executive Ian Livingston will this year help himself to basic pay of £850,000 plus a bonus of £1,200,000—the total is up 79 percent on 2009.

Meanwhile, part-time ­chairman, Sir Michael Rake, will see his pay soar by £40,000 to £670,000.

Yet call centre workers get as little as £15,000 a year.

Union reps have told Socialist Worker that these revelations are helping to win more yes votes.

“Union activists are 100 percent behind the action. Now we have to get that ­feeling out to all the members”, says Colin, who works for BT in south London.

“For the next two weeks we are going to be busy organising members’ meetings.

“Many of our people are young and a bit nervous about striking, but they are also angry at low wages. As reps, our job is to alleviate fears by talking about how we can win.

“I’m telling people that we must not give up the pay and conditions that previous generations have fought for. In fact, we must pave the way for decent pay for future generations.”

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Tue 8 Jun 2010, 18:43 BST
Issue No. 2205
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