BT workers in Slough and Maidenhead strike over pay dispute

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Workers from BT protesting in Maidenhead

Telecommunications workers for BT and its subsidiary Openreach were on strike in Slough and Maidenhead today (Friday) in a dispute regarding a recent pay rise.

Employees such as call centre staff and engineers have taken to the streets to voice their displeasure with their employer and CEO Philip Jansen. 

Represented by The Communication Workers (CWU) Union, BT workers also plan to go on strike again on Monday.

The reason for the action is due to a recent pay rise for staff within the company, with Luke Butler, an engineer striking in Maidenhead today, claiming regular employees have not been 'rewarded' for their work during the pandemic.

He added that Mr Jansen has received a substantially larger pay increase than other employees, who received between a three and five per cent rise. 

About 15 staff were striking in each of West Street, Maidenhead and Wellington Street, Slough (below), joining hundreds of others across the UK.

In Maidenhead, employees were demonstrating outside one of the company's local telephone exchange centres. 

It comes as industrial action by the RMT Union grinds train services to a halt, with strikes on the railways set to disrupt passengers again tomorrow (Saturday), in what is another dispute over pay.

Luke told the Advertiser: "We feel, and the union feel, that we are owed more than the pay rise that was offered.

"The CEO was given about a 32 per cent pay rise but the workers have got between three and five per cent.

"And they won't come back for negotiations, so it is like: 'this is what you are getting and we are not going to discuss it'."

He added: "Over the years there has always been a good relationship between the union and BT Openreach, but this seems to have deteriorated.

"We were classed as key workers during the pandemic and we don't feel we have been rewarded enough for that.

"The higher management have all received their money but it has not filtered down to people on the ground."

Luke claimed that some call centre staff - who are on some of the lowest wages at BT - have had to resort to food banks owing to the cost of living crisis.

"We just want something that is in line with inflation to help with the cost of living," he said. "All of the unions are doing similar things nationally."

A spokesperson for BT said: “At the start of this year, we were in exhaustive discussions with the CWU that lasted for two months, trying hard to reach an agreement on pay.

"When it became clear that we were not going to reach an accord, we took the decision to go ahead with awarding our team member and frontline colleagues the highest pay award in more than 20 years, effective 1st April.

“We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be re-opening the 2022 pay review, having already made the best award we could.

"We’re balancing the complex and competing demands of our stakeholders and that includes making once-in-a-generation investments to upgrade the country’s broadband and mobile networks, vital for the UK economy and for BT Group’s future – including our people.

“While we respect the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike, we will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.

"We have tried and tested processes for large scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers and these were proved during the pandemic.”

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