BT facing first strike since 1987

BT is staring down the barrel of its first national strike since 1987 as workers intensify a dispute over planned job cuts and the closure of sites.

The strike is being threatened by the Communication Workers Union, with the group holding a ballot in the coming weeks. Voting on the strike will be workers from BT, EE and Openreach, with potential action threatening a “massive impact” on BT’s network. 

The union claims that while BT wants to massively accelerate its shift to fibre broadband and 5G, the company is also planning on closing hundreds of sites across the country in the coming years and centralising operations out of 30 locations.

Andy Kerr, the CWU’s deputy general secretary, said: “This is a decision we did not want to take. Last year our members delivered a huge yes vote in a consultative ballot but BT Group are still in denial.b We want to assure businesses and the public that we do not want to see disruptions to services. This action is about protecting our members but also it is about protecting the service they provide to homes and businesses.”

BT has spoken out against the proposed action, with a spokesperson saying: “Such change is always difficult – that’s why we have been discussing our plans with the unions and will continue to do so.

“We’re disappointed that CWU is contemplating industrial action, though the union has not started the formal industrial action process. We remain committed to discussing the concerns they have raised.”

BT’s last workers’ strike was in January 1987, when around 117,000 telephone engineers downed tools. This came after BT rejected a union demand to reinstate engineers who were suspended during a dispute over pay and working conditions. Like today, that strike came amid planned job cuts, with BT having announced a plan to reduce numbers by 70,000 workers.

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