The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has sent ballot papers to its members over a pay dispute with BT, bringing the threat of a strike ever closer.
The CWU has urged members to vote for strike action, citing what it claims are double standards in pay between executives and core workers, particularly as BT has seen large profits in the past year.
"We are amazed at the aggressive attitude of BT bosses. The company's claim that a five per cent pay rise for staff would lead to cutting back and making redundancies is an unbelievable fat-cat excuse," said CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.
"It would cost 3.6 per cent of available cash flow, hardly breaking the bank. "
Kerr added that the CWU remains open to meeting BT to discuss an improved offer, and that he hoped there would be no need for the strike. But he sounded a warning to BT over the union's intention to pursue industrial action.
"Any legal challenge from the company will not solve the outstanding issues on pay, and will only worsen already deteriorating industrial relations," he warned.
"We're confident that our members will vote 'yes' in this ballot, despite the scare tactics of the company. It's time BT recognised that you can't treat staff like second-class citizens."
However, BT said that it is "surprised by the union telling the media they are willing to compromise on their five per cent claim", and that, in light of this statement, the threat of strike action should be called off.
"We call on the union to postpone the ballot and return to formal discussions with the company. Industrial action is unnecessary and would only benefit our competitors, so we look forward to any new proposal from the union," a BT spokesperson said.
John Adey, chief operating officer at computing services provider Star, warned that businesses need contingency plans in place in case the strike goes ahead.
"The majority of the UK's businesses, whichever broadband provider they use, are reliant on BT for the last mile of the network," he said.
"If they have a problem with their service during the strike this could have an impact on their business, as the time for repairs to the line could be longer than usual."
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