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Employment

Thousands of BT workers stage biggest strike in 35 years

Staff at BT have walked out, weeks after the company was slammed for having a “food bank” for staff in one of its call centres.

Thousands of workers from BT and Openreach have walked out on strike today, the day after BT reported its revenues had grown for the first time in five years.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) are on picket lines across the country having rejected an offer of a £1,500 pay rise.

BT came in for heavy criticism last month when The Big Issue revealed a BT call centre had set up a “food bank” for its staff to use.

At the time, Dave Ward, general secretary of the CWU, said the revelation would “inspire people to vote for industrial action.”

Today’s action is the first national strike to affect BT since 1987, and marks the latest in a growing wave of industrial action as the country faces soaring inflation.

Despite Labour leader Keir Starmer’s instruction for MPs to stay away from picket lines, some of the party’s MPs have been making their presence known.

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Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry was sacked this week after appearing at an RMT picket line during the train strikes. Starmer said he sacked Tarry for making up policy “on the hoof”.

Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East, tweeted her support from a picket line.

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, was pictured at a picket line in Morpeth.

Although not members of the shadow cabinet, the MPs’ presence at the picket lines stands in opposition to Starmer’s insistence that: “The Labour party in opposition needs to be the Labour party in power.

“And a government doesn’t go on picket lines, a government tries to resolve disputes.”

BT has said it had offered the “highest pay award in more than 20 years”, and said it would not be “re-opening the 2022 pay review.”

The CWU said BT was “gaslighting” its members, who deserved a “proper pay rise.”

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