BT Group PLC (LON:BT.A) is facing a difficult winter after thousands of its employees overwhelmingly backed strike action in a ballot called by the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
The trade union said just over 74% of its 45,000 members across the telecoms giant’s BT, Openreach and EE businesses voted in a national consultative ballot which returned 97.9% support for an official vote to strike.
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“Our members – many of them key workers – have made it crystal clear today that they will not support an agenda of compulsory redundancies, site closures and the race to the bottom on terms and conditions. The CWU will be seeking an urgent meeting with BT to resolve this dispute and avoid disruption to the great service our members provide and customers receive”, CWU deputy general secretary for telecoms and financial services Andy Kerr said in a statement.
“BT Group management are acting in a disgraceful manner and this union will not stand for it. As with so many companies across the UK, BT are only interested in being in line with market competition, profit, and shareholder dividends. Our union has a different vision – one of secure, well paid, UK based jobs, good terms and conditions and a service the UK can be proud of. We are today giving management the opportunity to return to the negotiating table with a serious offer to resolve this dispute”, added CWU general secretary Dave Ward.
The strike vote follows comments from the union in early November that its members were considering downing tools to fight back against what it said was an “increasingly aggressive approach from management”. If the ballot proceeds to a walkout, it will be the first national strike at BT since 1994.
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BT has been moving to cut costs in an effort to get its profits back on track following disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.
While increasing its prices for customers by 3.9% in recent months, the company has also opened a redundancy scheme for its Openreach arm as it pushed through a new ‘location strategy’ where desk-based work is to be cut from more than 30 locations to nine sites, which the CWU said would hit at least 7,000 staff.
Shares in BT fell 1.2% to 136.6p in late-afternoon trading on Thursday.