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999 call handlers join BT workers in strike action today

Serious disruption to emergency services has been predicted today Thursday (6 October), as 999 emergency call handlers walk out for the first time with colleagues in BT Group.

Members of the Communication Workers Union – the union for BT Group workers – will be walking out on Thursday 6 October, with further strikes planned for Monday 10 , Thursday 20  and Monday 24 October.

These strikes include the 30,000 Openreach engineers and 10,000 BT call centre workers who have taken action in previous months in opposition to BT Group management’s imposition of an incredibly low flat-rate pay rise of just £1,500.

In the context of RPI inflation levels already hitting 11.7% this year, this is a real-terms pay cut, says the Communication Workers Union ( CWU ).

It is also in the context of BT making £1.3 billion in annual profit, with CEO Philip Jansen gaining a £3.5 million pay package – a 32% wage increase – while the Big Issue and the BBC have reported instances of BT Group offices establishing food banks to assist employees.

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The workers on strike look after the vast majority of Britain’s telecoms infrastructure, from mobile phone connection, broadband internet and back-up generators to national health systems, cyber security and data centres.

Now joining their number are over 500 operators in 999 call centres across the country.

In previous strikes, it was agreed between the union and the company that these workers would be exempt from the strike, and that a certain number of workers would be available to work at any given time.

But after widespread outrage at the company’s refusal to negotiate with union representatives, these workers will now be joining their company colleagues.

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: “This dispute is modern Britain in a nutshell: lives are at risk because a company’s top brass won’t listen to workers.

“This decision was not taken lightly, but our union’s repeated attempts to initiate discussions was declined by a management who clearly believe they are above negotiating a fair deal for people who make massive profits for them.

“999 operators are using foodbanks, they’re worried about the cost of living and are being stretched to the limit.

“Good will won’t pay the bills, and vital services are now being hampered because of corporate greed.

“BT management clearly has no appreciation of its workforce, or their social value.

“But this union does, and we will keep on fighting this company’s attempt to plunge its workers into even further hardship.”

CWU Deputy General Secretary Andy Kerr said: “It is downright disgraceful that BT Group’s refusal to treat its members with an ounce of dignity has come to this.

“Time and time again, we have asked for negotiations to resolve what may well be a dangerous dispute for many, only to be ignored by a senior management that could not be less interested in addressing the anger that exists in their workplaces.

“This is a problem created by corporate greed – and as usual, its effects will be felt by ordinary people.

“But BT Group workers are determined and united. They will fight hard to get the proper pay rise they deserve.”

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