Pay defiance at One Braham as CWU gears up for the ‘biggest union meeting ever!’Telecoms & Financial Services, BT, EE, Openreach June 15 2022
A spirited band of CWU London Region activists took the ‘I’M VOTING YES’ message to the very heart of BT-land yesterday, marking the eve of today’s despatch of more than 40,000 industrial action ballot papers to members across BT, Openreach and EE.
The significance of the starting gun being fired on the first BT-Group wide strike ballot in 35 years will again be heralded at 8pm this evening with what promises to be the ‘biggest union meeting ever’, thanks to mass participation in a truly huge online event the night before voting papers begin to land on doormats.
That will be followed by the CWU taking centre stage in the TUC’s ‘We Demand Better’ march and rally in central London on Saturday. The union is intent on using the event to focus public awareness of BT Group’s imposition of an insulting and unagreed flat-rate pay settlement that represents real-term pay cuts for all those who were hailed as heroes for keeping the country connected throughout the pandemic.
“Despite even larger than expected annual profits of £1.3bn, and a £761m dividend bonanza for shareholders, BT Group’s top brass are trotting out the predictable executive lie that they ‘can’t afford’ to protect workers from the rising cost of living,” stresses CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.
Contrasting management’ calls for employee pay restraint at a time when BT’s own figures reveal massive increases in overall packages being paid to those at the top, Andy observes: “Double standards on executive pay is nothing new – but attacks on ordinary working people to satisfy insatiable corporate greed are reaching new extremes in this cost of living crisis everywhere you look.”
CWU president Karen Rose agrees, insisting: “With the UK’s cavernous wealth divide being brought into ever starker focus by the deepening cost of living crisis, it’s never been more important for the trade union movement to stand united in defence of working people who are quite simply being buffeted from every direction.”
Nervousness in One Braham…
With the clamour of protest snowballing across every part of BT Group, it was telling that yesterday’s comparatively small CWU presence outside BT Groups new ‘One Braham’ HQ in Aldgate revealed a growing sense of nervousness amongst senior management.
“It’s amazing how much interest we generated,” explained T&FS Executive member Peter Frances. “There were never less than 10 to 12 managers taking picture of us and anyone we spoke to from the upper floors of One Braham – you could see them clearly given it’s glass-fronted – and some were even taking pictures from outside as well.
“We felt like boxers entering the ring at the O2 with security not letting us out of their sight and acting as if we wanted to storm the building, which was clearly ridiculous!
“None of us from the three London branches were intimidated by that – in fact we revelled in the attention – which makes me think the cameras were more there to put off anyone entering or exiting the building from speaking to us.”
Yet despite the heavy-handed surveillance, Peter revealed that one of the most unexpected things to come out of the exercise was tacit and even explicit support given by many of the managers who did venture a private opinion.
“Even when they wouldn’t take a leaflet or a sticker many of them put their thumbs up when we asked if they wanted a pay rise – and some actually said they need us to win to stand any chance of getting a decent rise themselves,” Peter explained.
“Given the numbers of senior managers in that building we were actually quite shocked, and very heartened indeed, by the number who wished us well with the campaign.”
- Watch tonight’s ‘Ballot Eve Live’ broadcast at 8pm here