Thursday 8 July 2021 1:24 pm

BT avoids strike after reaching pay deal with union

BT has averted its first major strike in more than three decades after reaching an agreement with the Communication and Workers Union (CWU) over pay and redundancy plans.

The CWU had threatened strike action against the telecoms giant, accusing it of “putting profit before people” in its radical restructuring plan.

But BT today said it had secured an agreement in principle that includes a pay increase, a review of its site closures and a commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies where possible.

The measures are likely to bring to an end a long-running dispute between the two sides and remove the threat of industrial action.

The CWU last year voted in favour of holding a ballot on industrial action — in what would be the company’s first national strike since 1987.

However, it put the ballot on hold in May after BT after the company agreed to a suspension of compulsory redundancies.

The row is centred around a major restructuring plan at the former state monopoly, which also owns BT and Openreach.

Under chief executive Philip Jansen the telecoms giant is planning to cut 13,000 jobs and shutter 90 per cent of its offices in a bid to find £2bn in cost savings each year.

The overhaul comes as BT pumps billions of pounds into its rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK.

But the plans have sparked anger at the CWU, which has hit out at an “increasingly aggressive” approach by management.

The agreement includes a pay increase for all staff that will be awarded next year, with the level set to be agreed following negotiations with the union.

BT said it has agreed to review the timing and location of some of its site closures, adding that over the next year it will only propose closures where staff can relocate to an alternative location.

The company added that it was aiming to reduce headcount through “natural attrition” — with around 10,000 employees leaving each year — and would consider steps to avoid compulsory redundancy “where we reasonably can”.

Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the CWU, said: “This agreement will increase job security, secure UK based roles, implement fairer grading and pay structures, see the opportunity for upskilling and see the union become a powerful stakeholder rather than an observer to BT’s plans.”