People who work from home are facing a “clear disruption” to internet services as thousands of BT employees vote this week to go on strike.
As many as 45,000 technicians and call center employees will decide within two weeks whether an industrial action will be launched. This makes up the vast majority of the company’s 58,000 frontline staff.
Insiders said there would be an “obvious disruption” to services, with some technicians unable to install phone lines or repair faulty services. Customers may also struggle to reach support staff by phone.
Widespread Railroad Strikes caused a near-complete shutdown of the transportation network last week, but increased levels of remote work since the pandemic have protected parts of the workforce from the disruption. However, a strike in the telecom sector could change that.
BT said it had begun disaster planning and was confident it could cope with even the majority of its frontline workers.
It follows a lengthy dispute with the Communication Workers Union over pay. The CWU accused management of attempting to impose “an incredibly low lump sum wage increase” at a time when inflation is soaring.
If workers choose to take action, it will be the first national strike in 35 years and the CWU said it would cause “massive disruption”.
BT offered its frontline workers a pay raise of £1,500, which is between three and eight percent. The group said: “We awarded the highest pay increase we could to team members and frontline colleagues in the BT Group. It is our highest pay increase in over 20 years.
“So it’s disappointing that the CWU has decided to vote in favor of union action without consulting its members about the outcome of our negotiations. If there is a strike, nobody wins.”
Dave Ward, the general secretary of the CWU, accused BT of making large profits and paying dividends without fairly compensating the employees.
“What makes employees even angrier is that the BT CEO has increased his pay by 32 percent in the past year,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
The CWU also votes more than 100,000 postmen Tuesday in a similar dispute over wages. “At Royal Mail, the CEO has just received a £140,000 bonus,” said Mr Ward.
The union rejected Royal Mail’s two per cent wage offer and said the company had “behaved abusively and disrespectfully towards key employees.
“Their behavior, and especially the imposition of such an aggressive wage offer, has eroded trust among loyal employees.”
Andy Kerr, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said: “As the ballots begin to fall through the doors of CWU members, thousands will think of the rising cost of living and the abusive treatment they have received from employers.”