Politics

BT and Post Office announce new strike action in rows over pay

Workers for the Post Office, BT and Openreach are all set to stage fresh strikes in a dispute over pay, continuing the summer of industrial action by hundreds of thousands of union members.

Post Office staff will take action on 26, 27 and 30 August, in a fourth round of action, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced.

BT and Openreach workers will hold a third round of strikes. The union said about 40,000 of its members will walk out on 30 and 31 August.

Around that number staged a strike at the end of last month and the start of this month in the first national telecoms strike since 1987 and the biggest ever among call centre workers.

Union members working for BT and Openreach had voted in favour of industrial action in protest at a £1,500 pay rise.

The Post Office walkout will include employees in Crown offices – larger branches – and in administration and the supply chain, and the action on 26 August will coincide with strikes by Royal Mail employees.

About 115,000 Royal Mail workers have previously announced strikes on 26 and 31 August, as well as on 8 and 9 September.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said of BT and Openreach: “It’s disgraceful that one of the UK’s wealthiest and most profitable businesses is refusing to pay a fair wage to its employees – the women and men whose hard work and dedication contribute so much to this company’s success.

“At a time when inflation is at its highest level in decades, and when this company is returning ever-increasing profits, paying out enormous amounts to shareholders and to its senior executive, it’s totally unacceptable to treat the workforce in this appalling way.”

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said of the new Post Office strikes: “We’re as determined as we have ever been to keep fighting and win a settlement that will protect our members’ standard of living through these exceptionally difficult economic times.

“At a time when inflation is almost 12 per cent, a pay deal worth just 3 per cent over two years is incredibly insulting – it’s actually a huge pay cut in real terms.

“Our members cannot and will not accept this massive lowering of their living standards, and their anger and determination have become stronger and stronger as this dispute has worn on.”

BT said: “We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, although we’re disappointed, we respect their decision to strike.

“We have made the best pay award we could and we are in constant discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.”

The company has said that after “exhaustive discussions” with the CWU it awarded the highest pay rise in more than 20 years.

The increase was £1,500, representing a pay rise of about 5 per cent on average and 8 per cent for the lowest paid, according to BT.

The company has made clear it will not be re-opening this year’s pay review, adding it would work to reduce the impact of industrial action by, for example, postponing any non-essential planned engineering or software updates, similar to what happened at the height of the pandemic and over holidays such as Christmas.

The Post Office said it was disappointed by the strike action, and talks with mediator Acas were planned for Thursday.

“The last time strike action was called in our directly managed branch network, 57 remained open on the day. We want to assure customers that the vast majority of our 11,500 branches will be open.”

They said the Post Office would put in place measures to mitigate any impact of strikes on Friday 26 and Tuesday 30 August.

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