BT staff could strike across the UK for the first time in more than 30 years - will internet access be affected?

By Helen Johnson
Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:54 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:55 pm
BT faces the threat of its first national strike in over 30 years as workers are set to vote on industrial action in a row over jobs (Photo: Shutterstock)

BT faces the threat of its first national strike in over 30 years as workers are set to vote on industrial action in a row over jobs.

Workers have been disputing BT Group's compulsory redundancies and closure of sites for over a year.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said 45,000 of its members from BT, Openreach and EE - which are all part of the BT Group - will take part in the vote, but warned that a yes vote would have a “massive impact” on the network.

CWU deputy general secretary, Andy Kerr, said: “This is a decision we did not want to take.

“Last year, our members delivered a huge yes vote in a consultative ballot, but BT Group are still in denial.

“My message to BT Group is that our door is still open, and we want to resolve this dispute, but this will require a huge shift in attitude from the company,” Mr Kerr added.

“My message to our members is to continue supporting their union and prepare to deliver a massive ‘yes’ vote.”

BT Group wants to close hundreds of sites across the country over the next few years and concentrate the majority of its operations at 30 key locations, according to the CWU.

Will internet access be affected?

If the ballot is passed then this could lead to walkouts in late spring, but millions of people will still be working from home due to Covid restrictions, and will continue to rely heavily on their broadband connections to be able to complete their work.

BT, EE and Openreach control most of the UK’s broadband network, but Mr Kerr has said the union doesn’t want to see disruptions occur for both businesses and the general public.

He said: “We want to assure businesses and the public that we do not want to see disruptions to services. This action is about protecting our members, but also it is about protecting the service they provide to homes and businesses.

A BT spokesman said: “We’re disappointed that CWU is contemplating industrial action, though the union has not started the formal industrial action process. We remain committed to discussing the concerns they have raised.

“BT needs to go through a period of immense change and investment to modernise itself for the future.

“Once complete, we will have a much simpler operating model with fewer people and we’ll be better able to serve our customers.

“Such change is always difficult – that’s why we have been discussing our plans with the unions and will continue to do so.”