“There’s no doubt that we were as solid as we could have been in the first industrial action – & I have no doubt that will be repeated on August 30th & 31st.”Andy Kerr, CWU Deputy General Secretary
From the CWU Press Office
Around 40,000 BT Group workers will hold their second two-day strike against real-term pay cuts on Tuesday August 30 and Wednesday August 31 following management’s failure to take up the union’s offer of serious talks to end the dispute.
On August 12 – two weeks to the day after the first national strike in BT since 1987 ended a 35-year run of industrial peace at the telecommunications and broadband giant – the CWU served formal legal notice of the two consecutive days of industrial action which will take place directly after the August bank holiday weekend.
The move comes amid a groundswell of mainstream political support that manifested itself at picket lines during the first two strike days, with dozens of Labour politicians – national as well as local – turning out to support CWU protests outside more than 200 BT Group sites the length and breadth of the country. (See story here)
Big Labour hitters publicly backing the actions of striking BT and Openreach workers now include deputy leader Angela Rayner; Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, Lucy Powell; Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Lisa Nandy; Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and metropolitan mayors Andy Burnham (Manchester) Steve Rotherham (Merseyside ), Marvin Rees (Bristol).
Meanwhile, far from experiencing negativity, public anger or criticism, CWU activists and branches have reported an extraordinary outpouring of solidarity for the union’s stand – with the message clearly resonating that a company that made a £1.3bn profit in the last full financial year(with £750million being paid out in shareholder dividends and the CEO pocketing a 32% pay rise) can afford to pay frontline workers a cost of living pay rise.
That has been reflected in unexpectedly positive media coverage, with extensive and factual coverage of the last strike days on the major terrestrial channels being seen in particular in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – with Sky News and Talk TV showing that even outlets that are traditionally seen as having a right-wing bias can sometimes give fair and honest coverage.
In one particularly frank interview on Talk TV deputy general secretary Andy Kerr elicited genuine surprise from the interviewer over the existence of a foodbank for employees in a major North East call centre. The same astonished host then herself pointed out that recently announced BT price rises mean the very same company is currently on course to have raised prices for some customers by 23% in a year!
Perhaps the most heart-warming spectacle of all for the thousands of CWU members who joined picket lines on the first two days of industrial action, however, was the outpouring of support from ordinary members of the public.
In Hampshire, the 50-plus strong gathering outside Waterlooville Telephone Exchange were greeted with a cacophony of supportive toots from passing vehicles – with passing ambulances even switching on their sirens in support.
“The level of support from the public has been unbelievable,” stressed local branch chair Ed Goodenough. “For our members that’s a massively important thing to see, and I really think they are in this for the long haul if necessary.”
Other spontaneous demonstrations of public support included numerous donations to a CWU-organised collection for a local foodbank in London – with many passers-by popping into an adjacent M&S to purchase donations having seen the picket line collection point outside BT Tower.
And in Truro a big-hearted pensioner on a mobility scooter delivered a bag full of iced water bottles to picketers on outside the town’s BT contact centre having spotted their protest in the sweltering heat.
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr concludes: “There’s no doubt that we were as solid as we could have been in the first industrial action – and I have no doubt that will be repeated on August 30th and 31st.
“We’re still hoping to get BT back round the table for serious negotiations , but as things stand it has sadly become clear that simply isn’t going to happen unless we take further action…so that’s precisely what we’re going to do.”
- Originally published on the CWU website here.