Watch as striking BT and Openreach workers in Sunderland slam ‘pittance’ pay rise as company makes £1.3bn profit

Workers at BT and Openreach in Washington have described their £1,500 pay rise as a “pittance” and said it showed a “lack of respect” after the company’s Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen was awarded a 32 per cent salary increase.

By Neil Fatkin
Friday, 29th July 2022, 1:50 pm
Updated Friday, 29th July 2022, 1:51 pm

Workers on the picket line outside the Washington branch said the flat rate offer worked out at an average of a five per cent increase – significantly below the current 9.4 per cent inflation rate and projected 11 per cent increase forecast by the Bank Of England.

Ninety seven percent of employees, who are members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), voted to withdraw their labour today (July 29) and on Monday (August 1), with workers highlighting a number of colleagues were having to resort to food banks to make ends meet.

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Customer Service Engineer, Ian Hammond, 56, said: “I’ve worked for the company for 33 years and this is the first time I’ve been on strike. I can’t afford to but I feel it’s necessary.

"The company have made a £1.3bn profit and paid out £750m in dividends to shareholders, yet we’ve had this flat pay increase imposed on us. The cost of living has gone up and we are asking for 10 per cent which is more in line with inflation.

"With the cost of living crisis, many people can’t afford to live.”

Fellow engineer Ralph Watson, 63, added: “It’s a pittance of a pay rise. I think if the CEO had not received this 32 per cent increase then people may have been inclined to say ‘fair enough’, but in light of this, what has been offered shows a lack of respect.”

BT Customer Service Engineer Ian Hammond (front) is demanding a "fair" pay increase more in line with the rise in the cost of living.

Ralph, who has worked for BT for 16 years, feels the increase also shows disregard for the efforts of staff during the Covid pandemic.

He added: “Throughout the pandemic we were expected to go into peoples’ homes, some of whom may have had Covid, to make repairs. We did it and this is how we’ve been rewarded.”

While the company were in negotiations earlier in the year, Ian said since the ballot for industrial action, BT bosses have “refused to meet”.

He added: “Hopefully they will come back to the negotiating table but this may only happen when customers begin to put the pressure on when their services can’t be repaired or installed.”

BT and Openreach staff in Washington were some of the 40,000 nationally to go on strike over pay.

Responding to the strike action a BT Group spokesperson 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 we were not going to reach an accord, we took the decision to go ahead with awarding our team members and front-line colleagues the highest pay award in more than 20 years.

“We’ve confirmed to the CWU 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.”