BT asks union to delay strike poll

A pedestrian walks past British Telecom telephone boxes in London May 13, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

LONDON (Reuters) - Telecoms provider BT called on the CWU trade union to postpone a strike ballot and return to discussions after a union official said the CWU could compromise on a pay demand.

The CWU is sending out ballot papers on Friday to more than 50,000 BT workers who are members of the union. It has demanded a 5 percent pay rise, while BT is offering 2 percent.

The CWU’s deputy general secretary told the Financial Times in an interview the union was willing to organise a lengthy strike if necessary, but could compromise on a pay rise of less than 5 percent.

BT said on Friday: “We are surprised by the union telling the media they are willing to compromise on their 5 percent claim. At no stage have they formally put forward an alternative proposal.

“Given this, we call on the union to postpone the ballot and return to formal discussions with the company.”

The CWU had no immediate comment on BT’s invitation.

BT shares traded down 2 percent at 136.9 pence by 9:50 a.m., the leading decliners in Europe’s telecoms index and also in the FTSE 100.

Reporting by Georgina Prodhan