Thursday 5 November 2020 11:40 am

BT threatened with strike action over job cuts and pay

BT could be facing its first major strike action in more than 15 years after union members accused the company of “putting profit before people”.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) today asked members to vote on whether to hold a strike ballot at the company over an “increasingly aggressive” approach by management across BT, Openreach and EE.

Read more: BT profit drops a fifth but telecoms giant boosts guidance

The ballot papers will be dispatched later this month, with voting set to close on 10 December.

The potential industrial action, which would be the company’s first national strike since 1994, comes amid complaints about job security and pay.

BT is currently undergoing a major restructuring programme, cutting 13,000 jobs and shuttering offices in a bid to find £2bn in cost savings each year.

The FTSE 100 telecoms giant, which is led by Philip Jansen, said the moves were an essential part of BT’s modernisation plans, but CWU general secretary Dave Ward accused the company of pursuing profits at the expense of employees.

“After decades of industrial stability, we are now seeing BT Group embark on a vicious programme of compulsory redundancies, site closures and attacks on pay, terms and conditions,” he said.

“If we stand by and let the company implement these changes without serious opposition, then the floodgates will open.”

A BT spokesperson said: “BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future. As the market continues to evolve and the needs of our customers change, we’ll need the right skills and capabilities in the business to adapt and respond. 

“This will result in a smaller number of people in the business in five years’ time, largely by not filling roles as and when they become vacant, but we will prioritise providing retraining and reskilling, unlimited learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.

“If we don’t improve our productivity and efficiency, BT Group will fall behind in the highly competitive, highly regulated markets in which we operate.”

Read more: BT taps Ericsson to provide London 5G networks

Strike action would come as a major blow to BT, which has suffered a hit to revenue and profit as a result of the pandemic.

The company last week said profit for the first half of the year had dropped 20 per cent, while revenue slipped eight per cent to £10.6bn.

Despite this, BT raised its earnings guidance for the full year to between £7.3bn and £7.5bn.