Outpouring of political and community support for striking BT and Openreach membersTelecoms & Financial Services, BT, Openreach July 29 2022
Across the country striking BT and Openreach workers have received a remarkable level of public, political and wider trade union movement support at hundreds of CWU picket lines across the country.
Far from experiencing negativity, public anger or criticism, CWU activists and branches have reported an extraordinary outpouring of solidarity for the union’s stand as around 40,000 BT Group employees took part in the first national strike in BT since 1987.
Commenting on a momentous day for the union that is now set to be repeated on Monday, deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “Today’s strike has been nothing short of rock solid.
“This should be a wake-up call to Philip Jansen and the BT Group Board that workers in this country will not sit idly by and watch their living standards crumble.
“The public is fed up at the level of corporate greed in this country today, and our members will be out again on Monday to tell BT Group that enough is enough.”
In a day that has surpassed all expectations in terms of the positive reception received by striking CWU members across the country, an impressive number of Labour MPs have turned out to publicly register their support.
Nowhere was the political support more palpable than at this morning’s massive BT Tower gathering – where no fewer than three prominent Labour MPs stood shoulder-to-shoulder with striking BT Group workers.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was joined by the ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell and, pointedly, by Sam Tarry – the ex-shadow transport minister who was controversially sacked by Keir Starmer following media appearances at an RMT picket line earlier this week.
In a defiant riposte to the Labour leadership, joining the CWU picket line he observed that “trade unions were the ones showing true leadership” in the fight to defend workers from the impact of an unprecedented cost of living crisis.
With TV cameras jostling to capture the scene, which included solidarity delegations from RMT, Equity, Unison and the NEU, CWU executive member Peter Frances described a “carnival” atmosphere that was echoed at other CWU picket lines across the capital and beyond.
In Birmingham a well attended and similarly upbeat picket line outside BT’s massive new Snowhill site was joined by the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green, Tahir Ali – while in the North East the CWU picket line outside BT’s South Shields contact centre was joined by local Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness.
In numerical terms, however, the strongest level of political support of all was received by CWU picket lines across the North West where attendees included Salford MP Rebecca Long Bailey, Blackburn MP Kate Hollern and shadow minister for employment Justin Madders, who joined a CWU picket line in Birkenhead.
With other MPs joining picket lines in Liverpool – and a more already confirmed to be visiting picket lines across the North West on Monday there can be no doubting the strong level of support striking CWU members from within the Labour Party!
But above everything it was the solidarity amongst CWU members themselves that won the day – with members across both BT and Openreach refusing to be cowed by “pathetic and desperate” attempts to undermine the union’s industrial action in recent days.
The litany of management lies reported to the union include some managers wrongly telling members that it is their duty to individually inform management of their intention to strike and others telling apprentices they are banned from striking at all – a complete and utter falsehood.
Ominously, employees in some workplaces have reported claims that managers intend to keep a register of striking workers – something that is positively illegal.
Praising the union’s BT Group membership for recognising such management intimidation and disinformation for what it is, Andy Kerr concludes: “Our members don’t want to take strike action, but neither are they going to accept the imposition of a real-terms pay cut while the company made £1.3bn in profit, shareholders gained £750million and the CEO pocketed a 32% pay rise.
“They have self-respect and aren’t afraid to stick up for themselves, No boss will crack their confidence any time soon.”