BT Group workers announce further strike action over pay dispute

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FILE PHOTO: BT Group plc workers unionised with the CWU stand at a picket line during a strike outside the BT Tower in London

(Reuters) -A union representing workers at Britain's BT Group and its networking arm Openreach said on Wednesday its members would hold a national strike over pay in October, adding to a wave of industrial action as inflation hits 40-year highs.

Some 40,000 workers, including BT Group's 999 emergency call handlers, will hold a strike for four days next month: Oct. 6, 10, 20 and 24, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said.

The CWU held similar walkouts in July and August in a dispute over pay.

Rising costs in Britain have prompted workers in industries from railways and airlines to barristers and even trade union staff to either threaten or undertake strike action in disputes over pay and conditions.

With annual consumer price growth in August of 9.9%, and economists expecting inflation to peak at around 11% in October, the CWU has said BT's pay offer represented a real terms pay cut.

The company announced a 1,500 pound-a-year ($1,697) rise in April, a 5% increase on average, and has said it won't be reopening its 2022 pay review.

"This dispute is modern Britain in a nutshell: Lives are at risk because a company's top brass won't listen to workers," said Dave Ward, general secretary of the union.

A BT Group spokesperson said: "We will do whatever it takes to protect 999 services – redeploying our people to the most important priority is a normal part of BT operations.

"We are profoundly disappointed that CWU is prepared to take this reckless course of action, but we respect the right of colleagues to strike."

($1 = 0.8836 pound)

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Paul Sandle in LondonEditing by Jonathan Oatis and Mark Potter)