BT braces itself for staff action as impasse with its workers continues

Steve Dinneen
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BT edged closer to its first strike action in more than 20 years yesterday as the?impasse between the telecoms giant and its workers dragged on.

Members of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have rejected two BT pay offers and have vowed to walk out if the firm does not meet their demands.

Talks between the two sides are ongoing but the CWU is demanding a five per cent wage hike this year after seeing pay frozen in 2009 – which analysts say BT is unlikely to match.

BT yesterday tabled an improved offer of a two per cent rise this year followed by three per cent next year but CWU bosses branded this “unacceptable”. There is now a stalemate that looks destined to end in the first walk-out of BT staff since it was privatised in 1984.

Reports emerged that BT had offered to cancel offshore call-centre contracts, largely based in India, to appease the union but company sources distanced themselves from this. They claimed instead the firm would “take a more structured approach to insourcing” by employing fewer third-party organisations.

The CWU is still to vote on whether to strike or take action short of a walk-out, which could include a “work to rule”, where staff refuse to carry out duties not listed in their contracts or work any overtime.

Last year BT slowed its revenue decline to just two per cent but the firm still faces a £5.7bn pension deficit.