Berkshire customers are expected to be affected as BT staff across the borough prepare to strike over pay disputes. 

The telecoms company has failed to reach a salary rise agreement with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents about 40,000 of the company’s 100,000 workforce. 

Those striking are predominantly made up of BT Openreach engineers and call centre workers who claim the company has chosen to “stick two fingers up” at employees. 

Strikers will be picketing at telephone exchange locations across the borough, including Barnsdale Road in Reading, Market Place in Bracknell, Wellington Street in Slough and West Street in Maidenhead. 

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The walkouts will take place on Friday July 29 and Monday August 1, which will leave customers unable to get an engineer call out or speak to a customer services representative over the phone. 

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “For the first time since 1987, strike action will now commence at BT Group. 

“This is not a case of an employer refusing to meet a union’s demands – this is about an employer refusing to meet us whatsoever,” he said.  

The ballot of staff at Openreach, which maintains the UK’s internet infrastructure, saw a 75 per cent turn out of the 28,425 members – with 96 per cent voting in for industrial action. 

Among CWU members employed by BT, turnout was 58 per cent with 92 per cent voting in favour.   

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The union is pushing for a 10 per cent pay rise to address the soaring cost-of-living, as inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.4 per cent in June. 

BT made almost £2bn in profits for the year to the end of March, with shareholders receiving £700m in dividends.  The company’s chief executive Philip Jansen said it can’t afford to increase staff pay. 

Mr Jansen himself received a 32 per cent pay rise last year – he took home a total of £3.5m due to bonuses and share awards. 

“The serious disruption this strike may cause is entirely down to Philip Jansen and his friends, who have chosen to stick two fingers up to their own workforce,” Mr Ward said.  

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A spokesperson for BT said: “Our job is to balance the competing demands of BT Group’s stakeholders and that requires careful management, especially in a challenging economic environment. 

“The result of the CWU’s ballot is a disappointment.” 

Openreach says it has “tried and tested” processes to mitigate large-scale employee absences and “minimise any disruption” for customers. 

“We proved this during the pandemic and as a precaution we are ready to do the same again should industrial action go ahead. We will do everything we can to keep our customers connected,” a company spokesperson said.