BT workers strike in Suffolk for first time in 35 years

A picket line was formed outside BT Adastral Park on Friday 29th July. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

A picket line was formed outside BT Adastral Park on Friday 29th July. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

BT and Openreach workers have formed picket lines around the county, as part of a dispute over pay.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) formed picket lines outside Adastral Park in Martlesham and outside an Openreach centre in Bury St Edmunds.

The CWU said it was the first national telecoms strike since 1987 and the biggest ever among call centre workers.

It comes a day after Unite members at the Port of Felixstowe voted to take strike action in August.

Unite bosses and port chiefs will go to arbitration meetings on Monday. 

The dispute follows the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company offering a pay increase of 5% to its workers, but this is "fairly far away" from the union's demands, a leader said.

On Saturday, train drivers at Greater Anglia will walk out again for 24 hours over pay.

Further strikes are planned next month by Aslef and the RMT in the deadlocked row over pay, jobs and conditions.

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“Strikes are always the last resort,” said Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef.

Another CWU strike will be held on Monday after union members voted in favour of industrial action in protest at a £1,500 pay rise.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “BT Group are now gaslighting our members.

“Announcing hundreds of millions of pounds in profit on the eve of the first national strike since 1987 smacks of arrogance and complete contempt for frontline workers.

“BT workers have hundreds of picket lines arranged across the UK today [Friday] and will support the CWU in delivering mass strike action.

“This dispute sits squarely at the feet of chief executive Philip Jansen. He represents everything that needs to change about big business in Britain.

“Our members kept the country connected during the pandemic. They deserve a proper pay rise, and that’s what they’re going to get.

“This is one of the worst examples of the corporate greed that people are so fed up with in Britain today.

“Workers at BT Group will never accept their bosses using Swiss banks while they use food banks. They deserve a proper pay rise, like all workers do.”

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 that we were not going to reach an accord, we took the decision to go ahead with awarding our team member and frontline colleagues the highest pay award in more than 20 years, effective April 1.

“We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be reopening 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.

“We have tried and tested processes for large-scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers and these were proved during the pandemic.”