back to article Union tells BT: Commit to pay rise talks next week or else

BT has until the middle of next week to confirm it will enter formal talks about employee pay rises or face the prospect of tens of thousands of unionized workers going out on the first nationwide strike since 1987. This is according to an email to members from the CWU, the communications union, and follows last week's ballot …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Profit

    £1.3bn profit, means they could award each front line worker with a £22k bonus. For many that would be enough to put down a deposit for their own place - quite life changing.

    If workers are unhappy about pay while corporation is making excessive profit that they only share with the top of the organisation, then it is an exploitative model.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Profit

      £1.3bn profit, means they could award each front line worker with a £22k bonus. For many that would be enough to put down a deposit for their own place - quite life changing.

      Unfortunately the downside of that is there would be no money left to pay a dividend to shareholders/investments which could have consequences for all employee which are quite life-changing.

    2. Spazturtle

      Re: Profit

      Those profits are used to pay people's pensions via dividends, not sure many people would be happy having their pension stripped off them.

      1. NewModelArmy

        Re: Profit

        This is not true :

        Report from the TUC - as per top google reply :

        https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/do-dividends-pay-our-pensions

        States:

        The figures show that the proportion of shares owned by UK pension funds fell from almost one in three (32.4 per cent) in 1990 to less than one in 25 (2.4 per cent) by 2018 – a decline of over 90 per cent

        As such, only 2.4% of shares are owned by pension funds.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Profit

          The fact that pension funds don't own the majority of UK shares doesn't mean that pension funds don't get the majority of their income from shares.

          1. NewModelArmy

            Re: Profit

            Not quite correct.

            https://www.investopedia.com/articles/credit-loans-mortgages/090116/what-do-pension-funds-typically-invest.asp

            States "Today, they increasingly invest in a variety of asset classes including private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and securities like gold that can hedge inflation."

            1. MOV r0,r0

              Re: Profit

              BT's own pension scheme is around £5bn in deficit - maybe that is a deserving candidate for the profits?

              1. NewModelArmy

                Re: Profit

                I agree, BT should be honouring its commitments. Maybe the pension regulator could comment on it ?

                BT cancelled the dividend payments for 18months, so it is possible that the deficit was reduced in this period.

          2. katrinab Silver badge
            Megaphone

            Re: Profit

            No, it shows that the majority of wealth in the country isn't owned by pensioners.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Profit

      Why do people always assume that "profit" means money that just ends up in someone's back pocket?

      When a company makes a profit (after tax), it's money that must be used to pay dividends, investment, and all the other things that a company has to spend money on to survive.

      Sure, they could structure things to make £1 profit, tell the shareholders to take a running jump, and stop investing in new infrastructures & facilities. They'd be gone in 5 years as their competition left them behind. £1.3bn is really not a large profit for a company the size of BT.

      As for pay rises, inflation has taken a sudden jump due to COVID & the war in Ukraine, but is expected to drop back again next year. If greedy unions press for silly pay rises to match peak inflation then inflation will keep rising, and we'll all be worse off.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Profit

        That's all true. The problem is that in the UK companies haven't ploughed the money into investment, infrastructure and facilities - they've either paid it all to directors and shareholders via bigger salaries, bonuses and dividends or used it to buy their own shares to force the price up and trigger bonuses and options.

        Up until the 80s salaries across the board in the UK grew broadly in line with GDP. Since then salaries have grown much more slowly than GDP as directors and shareholders have taken more and more and the rest of us get less. If salaries in the UK had continued the trend then the median salary today would be around £40k instead of £25k.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Profit

          That's just left wing propaganda. Large UK companies have all spent vast amounts of money on investment in infrastructure, R&D, etc. You only have to look at the annual statements of BT, BP, AstraZeneca, and hundreds of others to see that. Stop getting your business news from conspiracy media.

          1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: Profit

            Better still just get stopped in the many roadworks occasioned by Openreach putting fiber in the ground <G>

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: inflation... but is expected to drop back again next year.

        there are two key words in the this statement: 'expected' and 'next year'. I'm sure if people could delay paying bills, from food to electricity THIS year to NEXT, and if people could be GUARANTEED that the 'expected' becomes 'factual', then they'd be more open to such reasoning, perhaps.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: inflation... but is expected to drop back again next year.

          Which of course is exactly why companies are offering one-off cost of living bonuses, and not agreeing tosilly ongoing pay rises that would guarantee the situation gets worse. If it's still bad next year then things would need to be reviewed, of course.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: inflation... but is expected to drop back again next year.

            "Which of course is exactly why companies are offering one-off cost of living bonuses, and not agreeing tosilly ongoing pay rises that would guarantee the situation gets worse. If it's still bad next year then things would need to be reviewed, of course."

            They literally gave us that last year. £1000 one off payment with no "silly" pay rise.

            I genuinely hope you get a paycut you silly cunt.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: inflation... but is expected to drop back again next year.

              I genuinely hope you get a paycut you silly cunt.

              Well, I think I can see why you haven't got one.

      3. Alex Stuart

        Re: Profit

        They can't have invested that much, I have 30Mb internet in 2022, and don't live in the sticks.

        I had 1000Mb in India 5 years ago, in comparison.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Profit

          They can't have invested that much, I have 30Mb internet in 2022, and don't live in the sticks.

          I live in the sticks (in England), could have 900Mbit/s if I wanted

          I had 1000Mb in India 5 years ago, in comparison.

          Where were you? My colleagues in Bangalore (one of India's tech capitals) would be delighted to have a reliable 10Mbit/s, never mind 1000. It would make their late-night Zoom calls a lot more reliable.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Profit

      Which would merely kick the can down the road until next week's union bolshie moment.

      I see a 1970s style Keyensian wage/price spiral in the making right now.

      I wonder who's going to be Maggie and shoot it in the head once it's out of control this time?

      Paris, because she has a better grasp of economics than the trades' unions do.

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Profit

        Reading Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" should be compulsory for union and political leaders. Reading his defense of paying less but buying more with the lower wage was brilliant.

        I'd also add Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield"

        “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six , result happiness.

        Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery”

    5. The man with a spanner

      Re: Profit

      The management would have a lot more credibility if their pay rises and bonuses were the same percentage as the workers rather than 30%+ v as low as we can get away with (single figures).

      I'l put my tutu on and go and get the wand.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Invisible raise

    So assuming the front line worker earns £30k, the £1.5k raise means they would get an extra £83.43 per month.

    If they put a full tank each month to their car, then that raise is already gone, before you even take into account how prices of everything else have gone up.

    I think they are rightly mad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Invisible raise

      Suspect the union is mad because it was a flat rate increase. So those on lower earnings get a larger percentage increase than those on higher earnings.

      The union would have been happy if everyone got a percentage increase, even if that means those on low incomes get less than £1,500.

      However, awarding the executives large increases that don't reflect on the actual performance of the business and the current circumstances of the business, is an own goal.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Invisible raise

      I work for EE, we get £20,511, worked all the way through covid while most the uk were sat on their arse getting paid furlow.

      Pay is rubbish and the crap you have to put up with is not worth the money

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Invisible raise

      If it is one full tank per month, then they must live really close to their office / depot. I put a half-tank in my car every three days.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Coat

    Reading slippery letters

    I so read that headline as "Onion tells BT:...".

    That line would still make sense. Maybe that is a bit disturbing. Or should I just wipe my tears?

  4. Roj Blake

    Proposal for a New Law

    Proposal: directors of a company can only increase their compensation by the same percentage as the average throughout the company.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Proposal for a New Law

      Indeed.

      If the top cheeto gets a 30% raise when his company is losing money, then everyone gets a 30% raise.

      Somehow, that should be enshrined in law.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        This reminds me of companies that had to have a limited gap between the minimum and maximum wage employees way back.

        The solution was to fire all of the cleaners and low paid jobs, and hire outsourcing services to do those jobs, thereby eliminating low paid jobs entirely; pay rises were awarded all around for the C suite for their huge progress in closing the wage gap within the company almost overnight exceeding what anybody thought was possible.

        Of course, the actual low paid workers were actually worse off as a result, but that's never stopped schemes like this before.

        1. sten2012

          Re: Proposal for a New Law

          Trivially fixed though. Ironically by a strong union or these policies being enshrined in law, not just within an organisation.

          Yes people can scam their way out of these policies, but that's reason to crack down and implement better laws and rights, not to throw your hands up and say "oh well, we tried that one time".

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        As far as I'm aware, the staff that come out when there's actual work that needs to be done on the line don't work for BT Openreach, they work for Kelly Services.

    2. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Proposal for a New Law

      If an average employee screws up completely it costs the firm perhaps 0.001% of revenue. If the CEO screws up, that number rises to 10% or more. Sometimes much more. For the most famous example of this Google "Gerald Ratner".

      Shareholders are usually quite happy to incentivize directors well as those directors have the shareholders money in their hands. The law you propose would drive away shareholders, investment would suffer and the workers you are keen to support would be hurt most.

      1. Roj Blake

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        That's an argument for having a wage gap, not for having a wage gap that is constantly increasing.

        1. Persona Silver badge

          Re: Proposal for a New Law

          If you take that 0.001% and 10% example from above (they are accepted numbers) it's an argument for a wage gap of 10,000 to one. CEO's seldom get paid 10,000 times the average worker, so the gap looks a bit narrow and in need of increasing.

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        If the CEO doesn't turn up for work for a few days then no one really notices. If the average workers all don't turn up for a few days then everyone really notices. Who's more valuable now?

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Proposal for a New Law

          @Headley_Grange

          "If the CEO doesn't turn up for work for a few days then no one really notices."

          Unless brown sticky stuff hits the spinning turbine

          "If the average workers all don't turn up for a few days"

          They are replaced by some other average worker.

          "Who's more valuable now?"

          The one you cant replace easily.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Proposal for a New Law

            >The one you cant replace easily.

            Trouble is, there are very few irreplaceable CEO's of FT100 companies.

            One client questioned my fee rate, my response was: if you fuck up, the company can recover, if I fuck up, you don't have an IT system and given your entire company depends on its IT systems - the company's longevity can be measured in days.

            1. sten2012

              Re: Proposal for a New Law

              Yes! CEO's are valuable. But isn't it funny that high level C suites can freely move around completely unrelated business and not impact performance of what they oversee in the slightest, unless it goes downhill.

              I agree with a crap CEO doing damage. It doesn't make a passable one a goldmine. Any idiot with an MBA can do the same.

              1. The man with a spanner

                Re: Proposal for a New Law

                Its the idiots with the MBA you have to watch!

          2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

            Re: Proposal for a New Law

            Unless brown sticky stuff hits the spinning turbine

            In my experience, the CEO is the absolute LAST person you want or indeed need around when the midden hits the windmill.

      3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        CEO these days is an actor and con artist. I've seen owners literally running a casting for a CEO and they were measured on qualities like how they can sweet talk someone into parting with their money, what kind of suit they wore, if they had all teeth, did they have matching watch, then candidates who made the cut were taken for drinks to see how they behave drunk and so on.

        Then every time there was an opportunity to raise money, owners would wheel out actor CEO to get the money rolling in.

        They never had any role in the decision making. If they showed up at work, they played a role of office furniture and joke telling appliance.

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: Proposal for a New Law

          "if they had all teeth, did they have matching watch"

          Can't have a CEO with amalgam fillings and a gold watch!

      4. The man with a spanner

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        Why is it that the workforce are incentivised by a 5% bonus to do their job wheras a CEO needs a 100% bonus in order to be incentivised to do the job he (occasionaly she) is being paid for.

        Bonuses are increaasingly part of the problem.

      5. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        I've upvoted you (especially for the Gerald Ratner comment) BUT as is sort of pointed out elsewhere in these comments all to often directors are given bonuses when the company performance is nosediving or when very easily achievable targets are met.

      6. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: Proposal for a New Law

        As being in IT, if I screw up things completely I can block the company working for several days, maybe more, leading to the company loosing at least 5% of revenue. Following your logic, I should get at least half the pay of the CEO, shouldn't I?

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Solidarity with the CWU members, and fuck the scabs who couldn't be bothered to vote for strike action.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      70s are over

      Scabs? What are we back to the days of Arthur Scargill?

      Both sides can go to hell frankly, openretch for its disdain for customers and the cwu for their.members distain for customers, lazyness, poor work quality and acting like they work at British Leyland during the malaise years.....

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: 70s are over

        Not my experience of Openreach. Sure, getting hold of them via the various automated texts and dial-up is a pain in the arse, but the two techs who spent two days sorting my connection problems out the other week were great, knew their stuff, treated my "I'm an engineer so I understand this stuff" nonsense with polite respect and were very professional. The senior guy texted me a couple of days later to make sure it was all OK.

        I worked with them professionally a couple of times and it was the same story - dealing with head office is a bit of a pain, but the techs on the ground really knew their stuff and were never a problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 70s are over

          Be glad your not in my neck of the woods, told me they needed to sort access to something

          then denied they needed access and claimed there were never any issues and THEN had the brass neck to claim it was a "malicious neighbour dispute"

          Reality - the cost of properly sorting the issue was more than openretch wanted to spend on a copper line given the full fibre rollout, but they can't say that as Ofcom would kick them into touch, so instead just deny the issue exists at all

          Bunch of bolshy, militant, averse to dealing with awkward people, institutional liars and close ranks for fun

          A pox on ALL their houses....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 70s are over

            "A pox on ALL their houses...."

            You're very lucky you didn't get me as your engineer. Any cheek from cunts like you and I'd be off, quite happily leaving you with no service as a bonus if I could.

            ALWAYS treat your engineer with respect.

      2. Jedit Silver badge
        FAIL

        "Scabs? What are we back to the days of Arthur Scargill?"

        The term "scab" to refer to a strike breaker is from at least as far back as the 1770s, not the 1970s.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the CWU has any real sense they will demand the establishment of an:

      1. An HMRC-approved Employee Profit Share Scheme, that takes a predefined percentage of the profits (typically 10%) before tax. This would mean, if the company makes a profit, all employees would get an equal tax-free payout

      2. Employee Share Option Scheme (ESOP) that contains 10% of the issued share capital of the company and (non-exec) seats on the executive board, so employees get to share some of the dividend and share value growth; tax-free.

      (Mind you, now is probably the time for most employees to be asking the same question of their employers...)

      But because the unions, like UK management are stuck in the past, employee participation in the business is something they have difficulty getting their heads around.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You seem to only blame the unions. The management and shareholders are the ones who are mostly responsible for the lack of profit sharing and employee share ownership schemes.

        You're right the UK's industrial relations - assuming it has any industry left these days - is still stuck in the dark ages. Other countries have a far more progressive and consensus-driven approach.They're wealthier and more productive too. Which isn't a coincidence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >You seem to only blame the unions. The management and shareholders are the ones who are mostly responsible for the lack of profit sharing and employee share ownership schemes.

          Whilst in general I agree...

          I've worked in companies setting up ESOPs and been an employee-elected board member.

          Probably the biggest initial hurdle is management, not wanting to commit to establishing a tax efficient profit-sharing scheme and/or ESOP. However, given these schemes have been around for decades, it surprised me that the unions never asked, it was always an (enlightened?) management that initiated matters.

          As for the Shareholders, they only really get a say in the establishment of an ESOP, because setting one up in an established business requires adjustments to stock allocations. But given the success stories of ESOP's it is a little surprising that investors and enlightened shareholders don't ask management why they haven't implemented them.

          In one company with entrenched unions, the unions only permitted!!! the ESOP to go ahead, if they had a union elected representative on both the company board and ESOP board.

          Obviously, once the ESOP got off the ground, the union rep had big problems because the interests of employee-shareholders differed slightly but significantly, to that the union perceived as being the interests of their members.

          1. OhForF'

            >it surprised me that the unions never asked<

            If part of the companies success is automatically increasing salaries it makes it harder for the unions to tell their members "look what extra dosh we got you this year that you would never have got without a powerful union".

            Same issue with automatically compensating inflation - companies and unions would loose negotiation power.

  6. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Devil

    If there's

    the money for a 30% raise for the boss, theres the money for a 30% raise for the rest of the staff

    Otherwise we're going to be at the old gag of

    Boss brings new super sports car to work, everyone gathers around it going 'coo'

    And the boss says "If you lot work hard and get the deliveries done on time with no mistakes , I can have another new car next year"

    Boris

    "And when my boss did that with his new porche, I fetched the broom handle of doom and banged on the inside of the factory roof forcing all the seagulls to take off in fright and they always lighten their loads on take off...."

    Wheres the birdshit icon ?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CPI + 3.9%

    ... is what it says in tiny print at the bottom of all those broadband and phone ads. Is that what the workers are getting, or just the execs?

    1. R Soul Bronze badge

      Re: CPI + 3.9%

      The workers are getting offered fuck all and the execs are getting >> CPI. As usual.

      BT's Chief Exec got a 30%+ rise this year, trousering ~£3M/year.

  8. Mr. V. Meldrew

    Get your ladders out!

    Ah back to the good old days. (strange time shifting background noise) the heady days of '87.

    Me, a humble 27 year old self-employed guy, a telephone engineer by trade, yet self employed, unusual I guess in them days.

    Then came along the BT strike! Wow what a bonanaza . Business and residential faults every hour, take your pick. Clearly only on the subs wiring (cough, cough) not on the precious jewel of BT's network of copper aluminon and lead sheathed cable.

    That strike really did affect subs (customers), many who relied on the phone, roll forward to today. There are still many subs who rely on landlines. I just hope in this corporate world that the "little" sub is still looked after.

    If your ex BT, get your ladders out!

  9. Spamfast
    Trollface

    Shame on The Register

    Why do the media almost always report that unions 'demand' & 'threaten' and upper management 'offers' or 'awards' things?

    Given the current penchant for UK companies to fire full-time staff and bring in foreign agency workers on sub-minimum-wage or desperate 'gig workers' on zero-hour contracts I think the the language needs a bit of revision.

    I'm not in a union but all but a tiny sub-one-percentage of us would be very much worst off if they weren't there in terms of remuneration, safe & healthy working environments and equality of opportunity. This applies to white-collar just as much as blue.

    Most union officials genuinely try to work in the best interests of the whole workforce under much more democratic mandate from their members than do party politicians from their electorates.

    The upper management of most companies now seem to work entirely to further their own interests instead of those of the workforce or even the shareholders, most of whom are kept in the dark as much as possible about their decisions. (The exception being the upper management of the financial institutions who wield block shareholder votes of our pension and other funds who are equally self-serving and collude with them.)

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