BT strikes pay deal with unions

  • BT staff have been taking industrial action since the summer over pay deals
  • Now the UK operator has agreed a new offer with the main unions
  • Union members will vote in the next few weeks about whether or not to accept the offer

Following five months of strike action, BT has agreed a new pay deal with the two main unions that represent its employees, Communication Workers Union (CWU) and Prospect, which could see an end to the walkouts and give BT staff a salary increase that reflects the current levels of inflation in the UK. 

The ‘Cost of Living Pay Rise’ will, if all goes to plan, be awarded to about 85% of BT employees (effectively, all but the highest-paid staff). The unions are to run consultative ballots and are recommending that members vote in favour of the offer. 

The outcome of the ballots will be announced in mid-December, and in the case of the CWU would bring an end to the current industrial action if members vote in favour of the deal. BT staff have been striking for improved conditions since the summer. 

According to the CWU, the pay offer would reflect an annual pay rise of anything between just below 10% for some staff and anything up to 15% for some of the lower-paid employees. 

The CWO noted in an announcement to its members: “The CWU Executive Committee has agreed to recommend the deal with the strong view that it is the maximum that can be achieved by negotiation leveraged by your industrial action… Make no mistake, your significant sacrifice in taking strike action, making a stand against BT and objecting to their originally imposed pay rise in April ultimately forced BT back around the negotiating table. Without this, there would be no further pay increase. At best some people on lower pay may have received an imposed one-off cost-of-living payment in December.  The case was made, and won, for a consolidated pay rise; consolidation being hugely important as it means it is paid again and again, unlike a one-off payment which does not increase your actual pay.”

BT CEO Philip Jansen, who previously had not been receptive to union calls for improved pay deals, is now keen to start a new chapter in industrial relations, it seems. “This award is based on the principles we have followed throughout this difficult period. It gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible; favours our lower paid colleagues; and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay,” he noted. “Crucially, it has been worked on in conjunction with the CWU. As I’ve said throughout, whatever our differences, our unions are vital partners. We will now build on this collaboration: We have agreed with both our union partners that we will all lean into the opportunities and challenges the future will bring, specifically our transformation plans and the delivery of the £3bn cost savings by the end of FY25. Ultimately, we all want BT Group to be successful so that we can do the best by our people and customers for years to come.” 

Let’s hope for everyone’s sakes that the offer makes sense for BT’s employees and operators and that all involved can have a merry Christmas. News of the pay deal comes only weeks after Jansen announced that the operator was looking to increase its cost savings target from £2.5bn to £3bn by the end of fiscal year 2025. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV


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