BT AND Openreach workers picketed the gates of the company’s premises in Huddersfield Street, Galashiels this morning (Monday August 1) on the second day of their dispute.

Members of the Communication Workers Union, including call centre workers and engineers, walked out for 24 hours following action on Friday.

Around 22 workers from throughout the Scottish Borders joined the picket line on Friday and 15 returned this morning.  

The strike is against a £1,500 pay increase for all employees, which the CWU says means a real terms wage cut because of the soaring rate of inflation.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Since BT Group workers have been forced to take historic strike action in defence of their standard of living, just like in the pandemic, working-class people will step up to the plate when employers and politicians fail, and are ready to put need before greed.

“We urge all sympathetic members of the public to attend picket lines in their area and chip in to help out others.”

Will Dickson, the Branch Safety Officer for the Edinburgh, Dundee and the Borders branch who was on the Huddersfield Street picket line said: “We’ve been here since 7am this morning. We worked right through the pandemic and were classed as key workers, keeping the infrastructure going to ensure people could communicate with each other.

“All we are looking for is a pay rise that reflects that. Not one single person who has been on the picket line wants to be there. Hopefully you won’t see us here again, it just needs people to get round the table and negotiate a suitable pay rise. The cost of living is going up so much for everyone.

“And it’s been encouraging to see the support from the public. We have had plenty of honks from car drivers and positive comments from people passing. One woman even turned up with her wee lassie and handed out ice creams to everyone which were very much appreciated.”

A BT Group spokesperson said: “At the start of this year, we were in exhaustive discussions with the CWU that lasted for two months, trying hard to reach an agreement on pay.

“When it became clear that we were not going to reach an accord, we took the decision to go ahead with awarding our team members and frontline colleagues the highest pay award in more than 20 years, effective 1st April.

“We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be reopening the 2022 pay review, having already made the best award we could.

“We’re balancing the complex and competing demands of our stakeholders and that includes making once-in-a-generation investments to upgrade the country’s broadband and mobile networks, vital for the UK economy and for BT Group’s future – including our people.

“While we respect the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike, we will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.

“We have tried and tested processes for large-scale colleague absences to minimise any disruption for our customers and these were proved during the pandemic.”

The industrial action will be the latest in a wave of strikes sweeping the country involving union members including railway workers, Post Office staff and refuse collectors while more strikes are planned in the coming weeks in the bitter rail dispute.