BT pays staff £1,500 bonus… but firm faces nationwide strike

BT pays staff £1,500 bonus… but firm faces first nationwide strike for almost four decades

BT has offered a £1,500 bonus to thousands of staff as it battles to prevent the first national strikes at the telecoms giant in 37 years.

Chief executive Philip Jansen has announced 60,000 ‘heroes’ in frontline roles will get £1,000 in cash and £500 worth of shares as a reward for their service during the pandemic.

Engineers and customer call handlers are among those in line for the payout.

BT boss Philip Jansen (pictured) announced 60,000 ‘heroes’ in frontline roles will get £1,000 in cash and £500 worth of shares each as a reward for their service during the pandemic

But its move was blasted by union chiefs, who are threatening industrial action over plans to slash jobs and close offices. 

Strikes could disrupt the maintenance and repairs of BT’s creaking broadband network, risking outages when millions of Britons are relying on its internet services to work or study from home.

It could also spell further misery for its retail shareholders, as the stock has lost a third of its value in two years.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) accused Jansen (pictured) of trying to divide staff before members are sent strike ballots.

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, said: ‘This is a desperate move to buy off our members. 

What will amount to a few hundred quid after tax is no exchange for a programme of vicious compulsory redundancies, site closures and no real pay deal. Members will see through this.’

The row between BT and the CWU, which represents around 90 per cent of staff, centres on a modernisation plan. 

Union chiefs accuse Jansen of trying to ram through redundancies, office closures and changes to working conditions, while dismissing proposals to make job losses more gradual.

Jansen says the changes are needed to stay competitive. No agreement could mean the first company-wide strikes since 1987.

Chairman Jan du Plessis has said he would stand down amid reports of a clash with Jansen, something BT denies.

If CWU members back strikes, they could carry out 48-hour walkouts in late May. A source said relations with BT were still ‘salvageable’ but warned that Jansen had been ‘dismissive’ in talks so far.

‘He and his team seem to think the strikes won’t happen,’ the source added. ‘But we are very effective at organising and winning ballots.’

BT said: ‘We’re disappointed that CWU is contemplating industrial action. We remain committed to discussing concerns.’