Angry BT staff told there’s no more money in the pot

BT Tower framed by decorative lamp post

The boss of Telco group BT reportedly said the firm is too skint to dish out pay rises to staff, so a strike may be on the cards.

Bloomberg managed to get hold of some footage of BT’s ‘PJ Live’ virtual town hall meeting, and has described the staff as ‘incensed’ as CEO Philip Jansen told them he can’t afford to give them a pay rise because of soaring costs and low growth, to the point where they threatened to strike.

Anyone who’s worked for a large corporate in recent years will be familiar with the ‘town hall’ style virtual meetings, in which the boss rattles on about company successes or what have you and staff get to chip in with questions at the end. Well, in this one the BT CEO was apparently asked what he thought about workers struggling to pay bills, and others pointed to the fact his pay has apparently risen by 32% to £3.5 million this year.

By way of explanation he said BT’s revenue hasn’t increased for a few years and its energy bill, which is currently estimated to be £350 million, would jump by at least 50%. He also pointed out other things the telco group has been forking out for on recently, including fibre rollouts, taxes, dividends, interest payments on almost £20 billion in debt and the pension deficit.

“When you add all that stuff up, we’re actually slightly in the negative – so we’ve actually taken on more debt to make all that work,” he said at the meeting.

Bloomberg it seems reached out to BT to ask about the call, and a spokesperson didn’t dispute the characterization given of the angry workers, but said the raise they’ve given workers is the highest in 20 years, which is a bit confusing. Apparently Jansen “felt strongly that going ahead with the meeting and openly answering questions colleagues had in a live setting was the right thing to do.”

After being told you’re not getting a pay rise, or any other form of bad news from your employer, the next question is ‘what are you going to do about it?’ In the case of BT workers, it seems they might be up for striking. Apparently The Communication Workers Union is in its final stages of balloting BT employees on whether to down tools. On the subject Jansen apparently said he wouldn’t want a strike to “damage the business in a way that isn’t helpful for the future” by harming customer relationships. “Would I like to do more? Yes. Can we afford to do more? No.”

A spokesperson for the union apparently described the call “a complete embarrassment” for Jansen and that “It is no surprise that a CEO with a £3.5 million pay package isn’t in touch with working people.”

The cost of living crisis is going to ensure conversations like this between employer and employee occur all across the country, and as with the train strikes we are currently seeing, those sectors which have an effective union and find themselves in a position to do so may feel increasingly inclined to get picketing. The point of strikes is that they cause disruption, and any proposed strike is bound to have some impact on BT’s customers, so the Jansen may soon be on the end of an another call getting shouted at for that as well.


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