BT telecoms workers are furious after a deal between bosses and their CWU union officials was announced last week.
Bosses hope the deal will put an end to a long-running dispute with the union over a major attack on jobs and working conditions. But one union rep told Socialist Worker members hadn’t even been told of the deal—and are demanding a vote.
BT workers voted by nearly 98 percent for strikes in a consultative ballot last year, on a turnout of more than 74 percent.
They were gearing up to fight a planned “restructure” that would close offices and sack thousands of workers.
If action goes ahead it would be the first national strike in BT since 1994.
Yet last week BT announced a deal with union officials that doesn’t stop office closures, compulsory redundancies or offer any concrete pay deal.
Now, “the membership are angry,” one CWU rep in BT told Socialist Worker. “They feel that the can has been kicked down the road all year.
“It’s a shock announcement without our consultation.”
Announcing the deal last week, BT said it would only “consider steps to avoid compulsory redundancy,” while slashing jobs by not replacing any workers who leave.
It also said it would “look at the timing and location” of some of office closures, and only close offices where workers are able to relocate elsewhere.
But, “There are no changes to locations and sites previously announced.”
What’s more, the deal promised no pay deal for 2021, and a deal for 2022 is still to be negotiated.
CWU deputy general secretary for telecoms Andy Kerr released a response only after BT announced the deal. He said the deal was positive because it puts union officials “back in the room”.
But as the rep put it, the deal “Doesn’t seem to be a significant improvement or include a pay rise.
“All he’s achieved is he’s allowed to sit at the table and give his opinion on it.”
The rep added, “You can’t have a zero percent pay rise imposed. We had a crap pay deal in 2019.
“The membership accepted it, but not overwhelmingly, on the promise of jam tomorrow.”
And, “BT will prioritise the closure of buildings close to each other. But at present I’ve got three offices all within 40 minutes of each other. All that will do is increase the pressure.”
The rep said a “rebel band of areas” are now calling on CWU general secretary Dave Ward to intervene.
“The branches are angry,” the rep said.
“The members gave a 97 percent mandate to fight and the top official has rolled over and had his belly rubbed.”