The CEO of BT Group has been accused of “hiding from crisis” as strikes across the company resume.
Major disruption to emergency services has been predicted on Monday, as members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) will stage a walk out – with further strikes planned on October 20 and 24.
Striking in opposition to company management’s imposition of an “incredibly low” flat-rate pay rise of £1,500, around 30,000 Openreach engineers and 10,000 BT call centre workers have taken strike action across summer, putting a wide array of national infrastructure at risk.
The union – which represents BT Group workers – has accused the company’s CEO, Philip Jansen, of “running from his responsibilities” and accused the firm of allowing emergency calls of going “unmanned”.
However the telecoms giant branded that claim “reckless and inaccurate” as they urged those requiring immediate assistance to dial 999 as normal.
CWU Deputy General Secretary Andy Kerr said: “Up and down the country, BT workers are asking: ‘where’s Philip Jansen?’
“It’s unacceptable that someone like him can evade any scrutiny on his decisions when they result in 999 calls getting left unmanned and national infrastructure at risk.
“In any other walk of life, he’d have been gone a long time ago.
“Time and time again, we have asked for negotiations to resolve what may well be a dangerous dispute for many, only to be ignored.
“But BT Group workers are sick of this corporate arrogance, and they are determined and united.
“They will fight hard to get the proper pay rise – and the dignity – that they deserve.”
In August, Jansen’s absence caught the attention of Labour Party Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, who regarded his conduct as “highly unusual” and “deeply damaging to the interests of the country as a whole”.
In previous strikes, BT and the CWU agreed they would be strike-exempt, but they walked out for the first-time last Thursday, citing Jansen’s continued refusal to negotiate as the reason.
CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said: “Monday will see another day of needless disruption because a boss is happy to wreck workers’ livelihoods and run away from his responsibilities.
“Philip Jansen won’t justify his decision to put workers into serious hardship because he can’t.
“The result of this is 999 emergency call handlers coming out on strike for the first time ever.
“These are highly dedicated people who do some of the most important work in our society – why are they so poorly paid?
“A company that made more than £1bn in profit – and a boss who gave himself a 32% pay rise – should not be ignoring them.”
He added: “When they decide to get round the table and negotiate a fair and dignified pay deal to end this dispute, the CWU will be waiting.”
A BT Group spokesperson said: “We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, whilst we respect the right of colleagues to take industrial action, we are profoundly disappointed that the CWU is prepared to take this reckless course of action by including 999 services in strikes.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect 999 services – redeploying our people to the most important priority is a normal part of BT Group operations.
“We made the best pay award we could in April and we have held discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here. In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected”.