BT Group has urged trade union bosses to commit to maintaining 999 emergency call-handling services as they prepare to announce dates for the company’s first strike action in more than three decades.
Sky News understands that executives from the company have written to the CWU in recent days to seek clarification over whether it would guarantee staffing for its so-called life and limb contract.
Dave Ward, the CWU general secretary, refused to rule out disruption to 999 services when asked about it last month, with the union said to be ready to unveil strike dates as early as Wednesday.
BT staff voted last month to go on strike for the first time in 35 years, with union bosses arguing that a £1,500 pay rise proposed by the company was inadequate to help staff deal with the cost of living crisis.
The former state-owned monopoly is responsible for answering all 999 calls and is drawing up contingency plans to manage disruption if CWU members trained to provide the service go on strike.
A CWU spokesperson said: “The CWU has not yet called any industrial action, so any discussion over potential disruption is pure speculation at this stage.”
BT is among a string of companies, including British Airways and Royal Mail, that are facing the most significant industrial unrest for years as millions of Britons struggle to cope with soaring inflation.
Executives at the telecoms company are said to be confident about their ability to manage mobile and broadband networks during the strikes after extensive stress-testing during the pandemic.
BT declined to comment on discussions about the life and limb contract, but said: “BT Group awarded its highest pay rise for frontline colleagues in more than 20 years – an average 5% increase and up to 8% for those on the lowest salaries.
“Our job is to balance the competing demands of BT Group’s stakeholders and that requires careful management, especially in a challenging economic environment.”
It said it would “work to keep our customers and the country connected.”