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BT strike ballot halted over possible 'technical breaches'

Union gutted after industrial action cancelled

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A planned strike ballot by BT staff has been scrapped due to "legal technicalities", the Communications Workers Union confirmed yesterday.

BT workers received ballot papers late last month, to support or oppose what would have been their first strike since 1987.

Talks over pay broke down in early June and 55,000 members of the CWU had been expected to vote to walk out, after demands for a five per cent pay rise this year were not met by BT.

The company has offered two per cent this year and three per cent next year.

"The legal technicalities on which this ballot has been cancelled again raise questions over the right to strike and the extremely restrictive trade union laws that exist in the UK. The law, in our view, appears to be outdated when it comes to the provision of information," said CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.

"We will take all necessary steps to allow us to re-ballot our members as soon as is practically possible. In the meantime we will also be taking up an offer from BT for a meeting to see if there is a way to resolve this dispute without the need for industrial action."

The CWU did not reveal details of the "technical breaches" mentioned in the union's statement, but Kerr, having sought legal advice, said that those breaches would "potentially invalidate the ballot".

BT, which has a workforce of around 100,000 people, wrote several letters to the union over the past few weeks, which CWU claimed amounted to a "legal challenge".

The CWU was set to announce the results of the ballot today.

BT said in a statement that the company's "door remains fully open to the union and so we hope we can sit down and resolve this matter".

It said the ballot had "procedural issues" that BT had questioned from the start.

"An amicable agreement is in everyone's interest and the withdrawal of the ballot provides both sides with a window of opportunity in which to reach such an agreement," BT said. ®

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