The first of two 24-hour strikes by BT staff begins today with thousands of workers expected to walk out over pay. This is the first time BT employees have felt the need to take national action since 1987 and it could cause some serious disruption for millions of their customers across the UK.
The Communication Workers Union, which represents around 40,000 staff, says it expects a range of BT services to be hit by the strike action with call centres and engineer visits thought to be worst affected.
Today’s action will then be followed by another walkout on Monday, August 1 heaping even more misery on BT users.
Speaking about the strike, Dave Ward, the CWU’s general secretary said: “These are the same workers who kept the country connected during the pandemic. “Without CWU members in BT Group, there would have been no homeworking revolution, and vital technical infrastructure may have malfunctioned or been broken when our country most needed it.”
In response, BT said it hopes to keep things running as smoothly as possible. The firm has also promised that it will work to reduce the impact of any industrial action by, for example, postponing any non-essential planned engineering or software updates.
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However, Ernest Doku, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, said that users could still face disruption to their internet access.
“BT has a third of the UK’s fixed broadband subscribers, and if you’re an existing customer experiencing an internet outage or looking to have BT broadband installed, it’s possible that the strikes could affect the service you receive,” Doku said.
“Contact centre staff will be taking industrial action on Friday and Monday, so if you have trouble with your connection you should visit the service status page on the BT website, which should show if there are network problems or the issue is specific to your line.
“As engineers for the Openreach network will also be on strike, households hoping to have BT broadband set up this weekend should be prepared for rescheduled dates or cancellations.”
BT doesn’t appear to be in the mood to cave into the demands of its staff and it’s unlcear if more strikes will then take place later this month. The telecoms giants says it has offered staff “the highest pay award in more than 20 years” and it won’t be re-opening the 2022 pay review.
In a statement sent to Express.co.uk a BT Group spokesperson said: “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 1st 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.
“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.”