The UK’s biggest operator is hoping to avoid a national strike by offering bonus package to about 60,000 staff.
BT has proposed a £1,500 special bonus for frontline and other key workers, with £1,000 paid immediately in cash and £500 in shares after three years. BT says this share payment is a discretionary award made under a previously announced scheme called yourshare.
Those who qualify for the bonus include customer-facing staff and field engineers who were designated key workers in successive lockdowns.
Generous to a fault
The £1,500 – which the company describes as "generous" – represents about 5% of the salary of an average BT front line worker in the UK – £30,000. The operator also points out the proposal is despite BT freezing pay across the company and the ongoing, unresolved discussions with trade unions over its transformation and modernisation plans.
BT is facing the first national strike in decades which will involve staff from its mobile arm, EE, its wholesale access business Openreach, and BT itself. The workforce is unhappy about job losses, a massive reduction in sites meaning many will have to travel much further to work (the future of staff home working in this is unclear) and accusations the operator has reneged on its original redundancy terms.
If the strike ballot goes ahead, strike action is expected to start in late May.
Dave Ward, General Secretary of the Communications Workers Union, tweeted, “This is a desperate move from BT Group to buy off our members. What will amount to a few hundred quid [pounds] after tax is no exchange for a programme of vicious compulsory redundancies, site closures and no real pay deal. Our members will see through this and vote yes [to the strike] in the ballot.”
Chief Executive, Philip Jansen (pictured), joined BT at the start of 2019 on a basic annual salary of £1.1 million and a pay deal that could exceed £8 million a year, depending on performance, after three years. In April 2020 he said he would donate his salary to the NHS [National Health Service] Charities Together Covid-19 appeal for at least six months.
Offering the new proposal, Jansen said, “BT has made a massive contribution to the national cause over the past year: we’ve supported the NHS, families and businesses, and avoided the use of redundancy or furlough in our response to the pandemic. Our frontline colleagues and key workers have been true heroes, keeping everyone connected in this most difficult time.
“BT has delivered for our customers through the dedication of all our people, but inevitably the pandemic hit our financial performance, like that of most companies. In this context, we have to prioritise and I am determined that we will do everything in our power to reward our frontline colleagues.”
BT says the offer should not affect its full-year financial outlook.