“Enough is enough” – that was the message loud and clear from striking CWU workers at Bridgend Telecommunications Exchange last Friday, after the CEO of BT, Phillip Jansen, refused to meet Union members despite finding time to play a highly publicised round of golf with Tiger Woods earlier this week. Across South Wales exchanges, it was a similar story.
Just after midnight the telecom giant’s employees across UK began a two-day national strike against real-term pay cuts that have left some reliant on food banks in an ever-deepening cost of living crisis – many of those on Bridgend’s picket lines told stories of setting up foodbanks in work for Call Centre staff who could not afford to feed their families.
Poignantly, the strike – which will continue for a second 24-hour period on Monday – began just hours after the release of company’s latest quarterly results which revealed the company made a further £400m profit in the first quarter, on top of the £1.3bn achieved in the last financial year, while staff were offered only a 5% pay rise and the business has also announced plans for massive price increases for customers.
A local picketeer said:
“This company has run off our goodwill for many years, they do not appreciate their workers and enough is enough. We’ve worked in all weathers, throughout the pandemic to keep networks running and remote workers connected, in the snow at midnight, in the heat of the day and many of us had to isolate from our families after working in high risk COVID situations.
“We never did it for the money, we did it to help the team. Philip Jansen wouldn’t even talk to us, never mind thank us, but he had time to hit the golf course. If there is another pandemic, BT can ‘do one’.”
CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said in a statement:
“Announcing hundreds of millions of pounds in profit on the eve of the first national strike since 1987 smacks of arrogance and complete contempt for frontline workers,” Andy insisted.
“This dispute sits squarely at the feet of BT Group CEO Philip Jansen and the Board. They represent everything that needs to change about big business in Britain.
“Our members kept the country connected during the pandemic. They deserve a proper pay rise, and that’s what they are going to get.”
Speaking to Sky News just after 7am this morning from the picket line outside BT Tower, CWU general secretary Dave Ward lambasted a brass-necked senior management culture in which “ripping off” staff and customers alike is seen as a badge of honour and an acceptable route to their own personal enrichment.
“There needs to be some kind of enquiry into the action of these people who are ripping off the whole of society,” Dave stressed.
“Our members are feeling disgusted at the actions of this CEO and the BT Group Board and they are not going to put up with it anymore.”
Citing the “need for action against this type of business leaders” Dave continued:
“We cannot carry on letting them live in a parallel galaxy, let alone a parallel universe – treating their workers the way they are while ripping off customers.
“Yesterday these guys announced a £400 million first quarter profit on top of the recently announced £1.3 billion – and that that they are again going to put prices up which will amount to a 23% price increase for customers in 12 months.
“I don’t think anyone could accept that as reasonable – and I’d urge the Government to launch an enquiry into the way BT management is running this company.”
The strike continued on Monday.