BT has this afternoon announced plans for a new “UK Cost of Living Pay Rise” to all but the highest paid staff, which it hopes will settle their pay dispute with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) – representing up to 38,000 employees – and thus avert any further strike action over Christmas.
The original dispute related to BT’s pledge to award workers a £1,500 consolidated pay increase to their annual salaries earlier this year (up from an original offer of £1,200). The operator said this would be the “largest [pay rise] … in over 20-years” for 58,000 of their UK frontline and Team Member colleagues – representing an increase of up to 8% for some colleagues and more than 3% for even the highest paid frontline workers.
However, the Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, Andy Kerr, who had called for a pay rise of 10% to recognise the “contribution our members have made to the business”, rejected the previous offer and warned that, given the surging level of inflation, it would have represented a “relative pay cut“. Kerr also noted that BT’s CEO had, at the same time as all this was occurring, awarded himself a 32% pay increase.
But signs of a change began to emerge earlier this month after BT and the CWU appeared to re-enter proper negotiations (here) and, as a result of that, the operator has today tabled the following offer with agreement from the CWU.
Details of the Cost of Living Pay Rise are:
➤ £1,500 pay rise for all UK colleagues who currently earn £50,000 or less from 1 Jan 2023
➤ Consolidated salary increase, not one-off payment
➤ Covers 100% of frontline staff (and others at ‘Team Member’ grade), and 51% of managers in the UK. In total, 85% of UK-based BT Group colleagues
➤ Highly competitive pay award when combined with the increase made in April, bringing the total percentage pay rise for the lowest paid to over 15% since this time last year
➤ Includes Openreach
According to the CWU, the total package includes pay permanently increasing by £3000 from 1st April 2022, with a further review from 1st September 2023 to allow for further negotiations to resolve pay, grading and structuring issues. This will represent a pay rise ranging from 6 to 16% for workers of different grades.
The proposal is now being put to a vote of the CWU’s BT membership, with the union’s executive urging members to accept the deal.
Philip Jansen, BT Group Chief Executive, said:
“This award is based on the principles we have followed throughout this difficult period. It gets help to as many of our colleagues as possible; favours our lower paid colleagues; and gives people the security of a built-in, pensionable increase to their pay.
Crucially, it has been worked on in conjunction with the CWU. As I’ve said throughout, whatever our differences, our unions are vital partners. We will now build on this collaboration: We have agreed with both our union partners that we will all lean into the opportunities and challenges the future will bring, specifically our transformation plans and the delivery of the £3bn cost savings by the end of FY25. Ultimately, we all want BT Group to be successful so that we can do the best by our people and customers for years to come.”
Andy Kerr, CWU Deputy General Secretary, said:
“I wish to pay tribute to our members for coming out to strike in such serious numbers.
Their determination has moved BT into a position where they could no longer ignore the case for a consolidated pay rise – without such unity, the company would have offered a cost-of-living bung at the very best.
Our members have every reason to be proud, and I hope that they have their say in the forthcoming electronic consultative ballot.”
The fact that this offer is being supported by the CWU should be enough to put an end to the dispute. We expect that the deal will be accepted, which will in turn give BT – in particular those working in its legally separate network access division (Openreach) – some much-needed stability over the festive season.
Christmas is often a strain for broadband operators due to holidays and bad weather, thus the risk of a much longer and deeper national strike occurring over that period will be something that BT will have wanted to avoid. This deal may just be big enough to deliver that outcome, at least until BT’s next pay review starts, which is in September 2023. Oh, dear.