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BT workers will receive ballot papers early next week, as they go to the polls over what would be their first strike since 1987.

Talks over pay broke down last week and it's now expected that 55,000 members of the Communication Workers Union will vote to walk out.

They are demanding a five per cent pay rise this year. BT has offered two per cent this year and three per cent next year.

Neither side have moved in the last two weeks, setting the scene for a protracted strike.

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: "This is about fairness and reality.

"Our members have had a pay freeze, pension changes and redundancies over the last two years but now the company is profitable, inflation is high and BT is paying out big money to shareholders and senior executives. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for our members."

BT returned to profitability last month, after losses from disastrous management of its Global Services division led to a round of deep cuts.

BT has argued a walk-out will be self-defeating as it will damage the company. ®

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