New pay offer from BT not enough to stop ballot, says union

UNION representatives at BT say they will go ahead with plans to ballot members on industrial action despite a revised pay offer from the communications group aimed at avoiding the first strike by its workers for 23 years.

• Strike call: BT is facing its first walk-out by workers in 23 years. Picture: Getty Images

The Communications Workers' Union (CWU), which represents about 50,000 of BT's UK staff, said it received notification of the fresh terms on Monday evening via what it thought to be a private letter. The contents of the offer were leaked yesterday morning, though both BT and the CWU refused to confirm or deny the details.

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BT is now said to be offering employees a 2 per cent pay rise this year, followed by a 3 per cent increase next year.

Staff could also earn bonuses of up to 250. That compares to the previous one-year offer of 2 per cent.

"This offer is an attempt to break the current impasse with the CWU; we hope that they will consider it seriously and respond positively," a BT spokeswoman said. "Industrial action is in no-one's interests."

However, the CWU said it was "disappointed" at the lack of material improvement in the pay offer for the current year. Though the union has said it is willing to meet BT to discuss the revised offer, it will press ahead with a strike vote "until any real progress is made" to this year's base pay settlement.

"BT's decision to leak their offer to the media today has also raised trust issues for us with the company," said Andy Kerr, CWU deputy general secretary. "We will meet BT to discuss whether an improved offer exists, but we will continue to press ahead with plans to ballot our members on industrial action in the absence of any real progress on pay."

The BT spokeswoman declined to comment on the leak accusations, nor would she elaborate on why the group allowed the CWU's deadline for a revised offer to elapse before putting forward an improved deal.

The union, which has asked for a 5 per cent pay rise for workers this year, announced on Friday that it would ballot members on strike action after BT failed to put forward an alternative offer.

The CWU set the deadline after it emerged earlier this month that BT's executive team had collected hefty bonuses for reviving the group's financial performance last year.

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Senior managers, led by chief executive Ian Livingston, are also in line for pay rises of between 5 and 7 per cent this year.

In addition to the new two-year pay deal, BT has reportedly also promised not to make any compulsory redundancies between now and the end of 2011.

The company has also pledged to repatriate call centre and back offices jobs from India to the UK.