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BT reaches deadlock with union

Strike ballot to go ahead

BT faces a strike ballot after it failed to reach an agreement in a pay dispute with engineers by today's noon deadline.

Some 55,000 members of the Communication Workers Union at BT will now vote on their first industrial action in more than 20 years.

The union had set a 12pm deadline for BT to improve on its offer of a two per cent pay rise. Leaders rejected the offer in light of BT's return to profit this year, and chief executive Ian Livingstone's own pay rise of almost six per cent and £1.2m bonus.

"We've made our position very clear," Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said this afternoon.

"2 per cent is not good enough when the company is making profits of over £1 billion, paying shareholders a 6 per cent dividend and paying out large sums to senior executives while inflation is at 5.3 per cent.

"Our members are angry about the blatant double standards when it comes to pay for those at the top compared to the rest of staff at the company. We're not asking for the earth, we're asking for a fair and affordable share of BT's success. If it's good enough for the executives it's good enough for the staff."

Kerr added that the CWU remains open to negotiations, but insisted only a bigger pay rise will end the dispute. Prospect, the other union at BT, has accepted the two per cent offer.

BT has said staff have received higher bonuses this year and that performance-based payments are its favoured approach.

A spokeswoman for the CWU said arrangements for its strike ballot will be announced next week. Workers last manned the picket lines in 1985. ®

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