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BT staff latest in Britain to vote for pay strikes

The British Telecom (BT) logo is displayed outside a store in London, Britain November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

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  • Nearly 96% of Openreach’s 21,000 engineers vote to strike
  • Majority of BT call center staff who vote also choose strike
  • BT says vote result a ‘disappointment’
  • Union says any strike could disrupt remote work for customers

LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) – Thousands of BT’s (BT.L) call center and engineering workers voted in favor of a strike on Thursday to demand better wages at the telecoms group, the latest in a wave of labor disputes across all sectors that threatens a summer of disruption in Britain.

Nearly 96% of some 21,000 engineers at BT Openreach have voted in favor of a strike, the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) said at a press briefing. Some 91.5% of BT Group workers who voted, many of whom were call center workers, also favored a strike, the union said.

Any strike – which would be the first in 35 years at the telecoms group – will have a “serious effect” on infrastructure, particularly broadband rollout, and could disrupt phone and internet users, including those who work from home, CWU said.

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The union has called BT’s award this year of a 1,500 pound ($1,823) pay rise to frontline workers, translating to 3-8% increases, as ‘unbelievably small’ and insufficient to cushion the impact of a cost of living crisis. . BT called the pay award its biggest in 20 years.

Britain’s inflation, which hit 9.1% last month, is at its highest level in four decades, contributing to strikes or threats of industrial action by transport, school, postal and hospitals. Read more

“Call center workers are among the most casual and isolated workers in this country…the unprecedented vote they held today demonstrates the anger that so many people feel in this country today” , CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said in a statement.

BT chief executive Philip Jansen’s most recent annual salary jumped 32% year-on-year to 3.5 million pounds ($4.3 million) – a figure which the CWU says is 86 times the average salary in BT’s Openreach, BT and EE divisions.

“The result of the CWU poll is a disappointment but we will work to keep our customers and the country connected,” a BT Group spokesman said.

“Our job is to balance the competing demands of BT Group’s stakeholders, which requires careful management, especially in a difficult economic environment.”

Turnout among union members at BT’s EE mobile brand was below the 50% required for a strike to be legally valid, the CWU said.

($1 = 0.8229 pounds)

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Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar and Paul Sandle; edited by William James and David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.