Socialist Worker

Union leaders made wrong call about BT dispute

Issue No. 2210

CWU union leaders announced last week that they were recommending a new and improved pay deal to end the pay dispute at BT.

The union says it is worth 9.3 percent over three years.

Over 50,000 union members balloted over strikes. But the CWU called off the ballot just before the result was to be announced, claiming that a legal challenge was possible.

Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary, said, “Following a very difficult set of negotiations and the first national ballot for strike action in BT since 1987 we’re delighted to have resolved this pay dispute through talks.

“This is a fantastic deal for our members providing a fair rise in their basic pay this year and for the following two years.

“Although our ballot for strike action was ultimately withdrawn, we believe it played a major part in getting BT back to the negotiating table with a significantly improved pay offer.”

BT bosses clearly have made concessions.

But many workers do not share Kerr’s joy. They point out that the union originally called for a 5 percent one year rise and it rejected a multi-year deal because of uncertainty over the rate of inflation in the future.

An official union bulletin rejecting the last deal said, “The CWU made
clear we are open to a two year pay deal, but that the award for the second year would have to be an
inflation plus formula to maintain the value of your pay in real terms.” Yet there is no such formula now.

In addition, BT has upped the percentage offer but withdrawn £250 payouts that were previously there to sweeten the lower offer.

Even the most optimistic reading of the new deal cannot pretend that it will be anything but three years of below‑inflation pay “rises”.

This follows tens of thousands of job cuts and worsening pensions.

BT workers should vote no to the deal and demand strikes to win more, if necessary through a re-ballot.

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Tue 13 Jul 2010, 17:56 BST
Issue No. 2210
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