Newcastle BT workers join one of the biggest strikes of the year alongside 999 call handlers

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One of the biggest strikes of the year began on Thursday morning with Royal Mail, BT and Openreach workers walking out over pay and conditions.

At BT Customer Contact Centre, in Gosforth, members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) wore bright jackets and waved flags as they formed a picket lines at the entrance to the building. They joined around 30,000 Openreach engineers and 10,000 BT call centre workers who have already taken industrial action, and further strikes are also planned for October 24.

999 emergency call handlers also took part in today’s strike, a move that was previously exempt from the strike according to CWU. But the union added that after widespread outrage at the company’s “refusal” to negotiate with union representatives, those workers would now join their company colleagues.

BT said they were “profoundly disappointed” that the CWU and labelled the decision to enable emergency call handlers to strike as “reckless”.

Picket lines were also scheduled at Royal Mail distribution centres across the country, including Gosforth, Forest Hall, Heaton and Newcastle city centre, in the North East. It formed part of the 19 days of Royal Mail strike action taking place throughout October and November 2022 which the union says will have a “dramatic impact” during busy periods in the upcoming months with the Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the run-up to Christmas all set to be affected.

A BT Group spokesperson said: “We know that our colleagues are dealing with the impacts of high inflation and, whilst we respect the right of colleagues to take industrial action, we are profoundly disappointed that the CWU is prepared to take this reckless course of action by including 999 services in strikes.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect 999 services – redeploying our people to the most important priority is a normal part of BT Group operations. We made the best pay award we could in April and we have held discussions with the CWU to find a way forward from here. In the meantime, we will continue to work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.”

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