Telecoms giant BT is facing the threat of the first national strike by its workers in more than 20 years in a dispute over a series of issues including jobs, pay and conditions.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) announced it is holding a consultative ballot among its members which could lead to a vote on whether to take industrial action.
The union claimed it is taking the move because of an ‘increasingly aggressive’ approach from management.
BT is facing the threat of the first national strike by workers in more than 20 years
Voting will start later this month and close on 10 December .
CWU officials warned that if progress is not made in negotiations with the company, there is a ‘very real prospect’ of a ballot for industrial action, which it said could lead to the first national strike in BT since 1994.
General secretary Dave Ward said: ‘This is the most important vote our members have ever been asked to cast since joining the company.
‘This is about job security, pay and grading, rights at work and the future direction of the company.
‘After decades of industrial stability, we are now seeing BT Group embark on a vicious programme of compulsory redundancies, site closures and attacks on pay, terms and conditions.
‘They are putting profit before people.
‘We know many senior managers are saying some members will not be impacted by their plans – nothing could be further from the truth.
‘If we stand by and let the company implement these changes without serious opposition, then the floodgates will open.’
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: ‘We are asking members to support the union in the ballot and reject compulsory redundancies, uncertain job security, the driving down of pay, grading and protections, attacks on key workers, and a negative change in management style.’
The union will have to hold a ballot on industrial action if there is a Yes vote in the consultative ballot.
A BT spokesman said: ‘BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future. As the market continues to evolve and the needs of our customers change, we’ll need the right skills and capabilities in the business to adapt and respond.
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‘We also have a root-and-branch modernisation programme across the business that will create £2billion of annualised savings by 2025 through digitising, automating and simplifying many of our systems and processes.
‘This will result in a smaller number of people in the business in five years’ time, largely by not filling roles as and when they become vacant, but we will prioritise providing retraining and reskilling, unlimited learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.
‘If we don’t improve our productivity and efficiency, BT Group will fall behind in the highly competitive, highly regulated markets in which we operate.’