BT and Openreach workers in Bognor Regis join colleagues in strike for fair pay

BT and Openreach staff in Bognor Regis joined colleagues all over the country in the first telecommunications strike since 1987.

With another strike planned for Monday, members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) from across the community came together on Gloucester Road today (July 29), to argue for better pay from BT bosses after the company reported £1.3 billion profits last year and gave its CEO, Philip Jansen a 32 per cent pay rise.

"We're out here today (...) because management won’t even talk to us about a real pay rise,” said regional CWU representative Peter Cane.

"We’ve got members that are using foodbanks (...) so the fact that they won’t even negotiate with us, has forced us to come out and strike.”

CWU strike in Bognor Regis

With thousands of workers striking all over the country, the telecoms giant has attempted to reassure customers that: “We have tried and tested processes for large scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers”.

A spokesperson for the company went on to say: “Our job is to balance the competing demands of BT Group’s stakeholders and that requires careful management, especially in a challenging economic environment. The result of the CWU’s ballot is a disappointment but we will work to keep our customers and the country connected.”

Frontline telecoms workers, whose pay was frozen during the pandemic, were offered a £1,500 pay increase by BT earlier this year. Despite BT’s repeated insistence that this is the largest pay rise in 20 years, union members do not feel it amounts to a meaningful or proportionate wage increase – particularly in the context of a cost of living crisis.

"It’s nothing, it’s less than five per cent,” Mr Cane said. “We want to talk about it, but (BT) won’t even sit down with us.”

Another CWU member, Richard Foulser, added: “Come October, we’re really going to feel the pinch. We’re not on good wages, none of us are on good wages. We haven’t had a proper pay rise in three years, so it’s going to be really hard. We’ve just had enough of being treated so badly. It’s not that we’re unwilling to change the way we work, we’ve already done that. We've taken on everything over the last few years without any reward whatsoever.”

The strike comes alongside industrial action in a number of other sectors across the country. Last week, the GMB union announced a settlement with waste management company Biffa, sidestepping the threat of bin strikes in Arun District, postal workers all over the country voted to down tools earlier this month over pay and rail workers disrupted services across Sussex in a bid for better conditions.

While acknowledging that each issue is it’s own, some strikers reported a certain sense of solidarity. Striker Darren Slaughter said: “We’ve had a lot of support from the public. A lot of drivers beeping for us, a lot of people stopping to chat.

"We’ve had a few posties come down to bring us refreshments and support us. I think people really stand together at times like this.”

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