BT employees having to use foodbanks

Veteran Fermanagh Trade Union activist, Jim Quinn, has warned the BT Group that striking workers will not be joining them in a race to the bottom.
Workers at BT’s Broadmeadow Place centre in Enniskillen have gone out on strike seeking improvements to both pay and conditions.
Quinn, who is part of the Fermanagh TUC umbrella for unions in the county, joined striking pickets in a show of solidarity, against the real-term pay-cuts being implemented by BT and insisting that they be paid wages in line with the current rate of inflation.
The situation for some workers is so bad that they’ve had to use food banks as their low salaries cannot match the rising costs of energy bills, petrol and food.
Quinn said: “The BT workers on strike at the minute are very proud and they’re very strong but they’re undoubtedly feeling the effects of all the rising costs.
“They don’t want to be out on the street, losing money. They want to be in work and earning a decent wage but they’re not being allowed to do that.
“If you look at the BT Group for example, their Chief Executive received a pay package of £3.5 million last year. That’s a 32 per cent increase and at a time when Communications Workers Union members are having to go to food banks.
“Working for BT used to be an attractive job – not so now. They’re advertising for new people but those people will be brought in on agency salaries – which are much lower than what the core workforce is earning right now.
“More to the point, they will be earning significantly lower wages to what a core worker was getting ten years ago. So what BT are involved in is a race to the bottom. However, we’re not going to join in that race.”
The action taken by the BT workers is not an isolated one with postal and railway workers also having taken industrial action recently. Quinn states that there will be more to come if the companies do pay workers fairer wages and improve working conditions.
He added: “It’s a reaction to two things. One is the cost of living crisis but it’s also the fact that wages have been artificially suppressed for the last decade or so.
“People are either not getting any payrises at all or getting payrises that are below inflation. So those two things have created ‘a perfect storm’ so to speak.
“That gives you some idea of the crisis that we’re in. You’ll probably see more and more workers over the next six to twelve months taking action to try and defend their pay.
“Something else that has happened in tandem with the attack on wages is that you’ve got companies, like the Post Office for example, who are trying to change the terms and conditions of workers during this crisis. They are trying to push back all the improvements to conditions that workers have gained over the years.
“People would have taken notice at the increase of electricity costs which have essentially doubled. It’s twice as dear to buy now. What are the implications of that for people on low incomes? They’re huge. Food prices are also through the roof and so are oil prices as well.
“The millionaires in Westminster and elsewhere are not affected by this. The taxation elements in the Budget the other week – had they gone through they would have only benefited someone on £20,000 by £3 a week. A millionaire would have gained £53,000 a year. That’s the kind of people we are dealing with in Westminster.
“These people are always trying to push back on workers so that their shareholders will make more money.
“But we’ll always be here ready to take them on and if they do want to push us, then we will push back.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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