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Thousands of BT and Openreach workers walk-out in first strike in nearly 35 years

There are expected to be 260 picket lines across the UK.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 29th July 2022

In what is the first national telecoms strike in nearly 35 years, 40,000 BT and Openreach workers have walked-out.

After members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) refused a £1,500 pay rise, thousands of BT and Openreach workers are to walk off the job today across the UK for the fist time since 1987 in what is the first of two strikes – with another being held on Monday.

The CWU said that the striking workers are from a number of different divisions within the UK’s leading telecoms companies.

There are expected to be 260 picket lines across the UK, according to the CWU.

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Striking workers are believed to “run all of the maintenance on Britain’s broadband services”, according to the CWU, and they also work to “keep up national infrastructure” – including everything from the NHS, to the Ministry of Defence, to mobile phone masts.

Strike action comes the day after BT revealed its first sales growth for five years, with revenues having increased by 1% to £5.1 billion for the three months to the end of June, which is boosted by price increases handed down to customers earlier this year.

Leaders at the CWU have claimed the BT Group is now “gaslighting our members”.

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Addressing the strike action, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said in a statement: “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.

“Our members kept the country connected during the pandemic.

“BT workers have hundreds of picket lines arranged across the UK tomorrow, and will support the CWU in delivering mass strike action.”

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He added that BT and Openreach workers “deserve a proper pay rise – and that’s what they’re going to get.”

Over 40,000 workers are expected to form 260 picket lines across the UK / Credit: BT Group

A spokesperson for BT Group said in response to the strike action called: “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 1 April.

“We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be re-opening the 2022 pay review, having already made the best award we could.”

The spokesperson claimed in the statement that the telecoms companies were “balancing the complex and competing demands of our stakeholders”.

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“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,” the statement continued.

“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.”

Featured Image – BT Group