Placard-waving BT staff hold strike in Morpeth town centre in row over pay

Workers at telecoms giant BT walked out today, in the first of two strikes.

By Andrew Coulson
Friday, 29th July 2022, 1:22 pm
Updated Friday, 29th July 2022, 1:29 pm
Strikers outside the Morpeth BT exchange. Centre, in grey sweater, is Andrew Cairns. Picket line leader Darren Marshall (holding the flag) is far right.
Strikers outside the Morpeth BT exchange. Centre, in grey sweater, is Andrew Cairns. Picket line leader Darren Marshall (holding the flag) is far right.

Engineers and call centre staff voted in favour of industrial action after BT offered a £1,500 per year pay rise.

And in Morpeth, BT workers held a protest outside the exchange in Newgate Street.

Passing drivers showed their support by tooting their horns and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery joined the men on the picket line earlier today.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said the action was the first national telecoms strike since 1987 and has warned the strikes could affect the rollout of ultra-fast broadband.

They may also cause issues for people working from home.

Northumberland engineer Andrew Cairns was one of the workers protesting in Morpeth. He said: “We have quite a bit of support, people tooting their horns as they go past and other stopping to ask us what we’re doing.

"A lot of the nation is now working from home so a secure broadband connection is more important now. And it’s not just the public – hospitals, the fire service, the police, they all rely on the internet now. Without it, things will go wrong very quickly.”

Nationally, the strike involves more than 30,000 engineers who maintain a large chunk of Britain’s digital infrastructure. Thousands of call centre workers are also taking part.

Peter Sharrocks, North East branch secretary of the CWU, said: “Our members don’t want to take strike action, but neither are they going to accept the imposition of a real-terms pay cut while the company made £1.3 billion in profit, shareholders gained £750 million and the CEO pocketed a 32 per cent pay rise.

"They’re using Swiss banks while our members use food banks.”

The second strike will be on Monday, between 8am and 4pm.