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back to article BT strike ballot halted over possible 'technical breaches'

A planned strike ballot by BT staff has been scrapped due to "legal technicalities", the Communications Workers Union confirmed yesterday. BT workers received ballot papers late last month, to support or oppose what would have been their first strike since 1987. Talks over pay broke down in early June and 55,000 members of the …

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All aboard !

All aboard the latest legal technicality strike-busting bandwagon !

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Right strike is safe

This move does not in any way "raise questions over the right to strike". All it means is that the unions need to make sure they obey the rules.

If they're incapable of managing to do that, despite the best efforts of very highly paid officials and legal teams, then the members should begin to wonder what use they are.

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FAIL

Invalid ballot

Let me guess... they didn't ballot the right members... or they balloted people that don't work for BT... or they didn't publish the results correctly... or any number of other obvious things they need to get right?

"restrictive trade union laws"? Give me a break. The ballot isn't valid if it doesn't meet some basic requirements. Anyway, why these people think that a 5% pay increase is fair when 10-20% or the workforce of every company in the UK are losing their jobs and the rest are on a pay freeze, is beyond me.

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Anonymous Coward

These people?

"These people" imply they are all behind it, whereas the ballot hasn't actually happened yet - so you don't know that.

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Thumb Up

Ahahaha!

Totally called it! AC @ 15:53 on http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2010/05/26/bt_strike/

Think there's a market for 'strike consultant' that these unions can throw a wodge of money at to ensure they actually run a legal ballot? Would cost less than their legal fees and re-ballots do, on account of them always screwing it up.

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Happy

Bwahahahahaha!

I see they've brought the same efficiency to their strike action as they do to their actual work!

"Welllllll, it's the wrong *shape* of ballot paper, y'see. I'll have to send away to the warehouse for the right one. Be back with you three weeks Tuesday."

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Flame

Incompetence begets incompetence

Not entirely unexpected in BT. In fact it would be very surprising for a BT union to be competent enough to be able to execute a ballot.

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BT told them it was wrong from the start....

According to the article BT told the Union that the ballot had problems from the start.

So, it sounds like head in sand time. Instead of fixing whatever problem we'll just carry on regardless....

It would be interesting to find out exactly what the screw up was, to know if their claims about strikes being difficult are true or if they're incompetent.

If they're keeping it secret, my guess is for incompetence.

Sorry, "guilty until proven innocent" in my mind.

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Bronze badge
WTF?

5%

Er, isn't a 2%, then 3% increase more than a single 5% increase?

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Compound interest

Not really, the 0.06% advantage is nothing. I would do better with 5% now and invest that in a high interest (0.5%) bank account and end up better off over the long run.

Don't underestimate compound interest.

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@Nextweek

What you're missing is that, rather than have 2% this year and 3% next, they want 5% this year and then they'll go back out on strike for next. Perhaps they're even wagering that the economy will have picked up by then and hence they can justify more. I shouldn't think they're worried about compound interest - isn't that 0.5% a gross of tax amount anyway?

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Aaaaahhhhh

The stink of the Thatcher years continues to foul the country and the British working person.

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Stop

Nope

Trade Unionism took off well before the Thatcher years...

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WTF?

Back-asswards

The point of my post being that Thatcher fucked up the trade unions for generations to come (if not permanently). I take it that it was a silent whoosh passing your ear?

The unions are now toothless wimps that cannot protect their workers from avaricious bosses who bow down to the great god sterling.

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Flame

"The unions are now toothless wimps"

so the unions are toothless? Yet one very recently tried to cripple BA. Now the BT union wants to destroy them. I have no time for the unions and I certainly have no time or sympathy for lazy sods who think they can simply strike if their outrageous demands are not met.

I have my job (which I'm thankful for in this climate) and have accepted terms from my employer that says I will be paid a certain figure. I don't expect to be able to demand changes to a contract that we both agreed on. Why do the unions think any differently?

Regardless of who the company is that's fighting the unions, I will always side with the company. I'd never fly BA and naturally despise BT for their uselessness but the unions, in my mind, are up there with Hitler. I'd like to see BA and BT sack any ungrateful sloth who goes on strike, there's a rather large pool of talent to select replacements from at the minute.

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Grenade

It's not like the rules have changed

If they can't get it right on rules that have been around for getting on for 20 years, then really it's tough. Employers have their obligations which unions continually gripe about if the employers mess up, yet when the unions mess up and the employers expect them to stick to the rules somehow it's an attack on the right to strike. No it's an expectation to stick to the rules. You can't have it both ways. Either neither stick to the rules, which no one wants or both do, you can't have one doing it and the other not.

Probably in less tough times employers didn't bother being quite so hardball on the rules, but unions are going to have to realise that's not the case now. Get it right, or have it stopped in the court it's simple.

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Coat

and it's not like this has happened a lot recently

I mean, you could forgive them for not realising that they'd be blocked in the courts if they got anything wrong. Oh wait...

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Flame

Not at all surprised.

In order to complete a legal ballot the trade union needs to ensure their membership records are complete and accurate. Given that most members will pay subs through their employer's payroll, who do you all think the information needs to come from in order to maintain these records? In a company of 100000+ people it will be pretty much impossible to ensure your records are completely accurate all the time and the slightest of errors can invalidate a ballot, even though the errors have no affect on the outcome of the vote.

To all intents and purposes the right to strike no longer exists in circumstances like this. And this was precisely the intention of the Thatcher legislation in the 1980s and 1990s. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either grossly uninformed or grossly lacking in intelligence.

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FAIL

Erm

The union membership list has nothing to do with their employer. If it did, that would be quite damaging anyway - the company DOES NOT want to know who's union and who's not, because then they can be seen as discriminatory. Sacked two union members in a row? "Oh, must be targeting us to get rid of us, because they know who we are!".

Additionally, union membership does *not* have to be paid through the employer's payroll. I can only speak for the unions in my industry (education, so large unions like the NUT etc.: never been a member, have no interest) but it's an entirely separate payment that actually varies on a number of factors. Employers don't want to be bothered with all that crap.

Thirdly, making sure your own membership records are complete and accurate is not a requirement for perfection, not is it necessary to involve anyone but yourself and your members. It's just a requirement that you *endeavour* to *ensure* they are as accurate as possible. Otherwise silly things like someone changing their address on the day of the ballot and "failing" to notify you would invalidate the ballot - a ludicrous and way-unreasonable situation.

If they signed up for your union, then you have their signature and details on a form they completed. That's a legal contract that you and they are obliged to abide by. Can't keep that up-to-date and accurate enough to send out a mailshot to their latest informed address, that's your problem. More likely, they cocked up on something like eligibility parameters.

Why you then have to bring ancient politics into it is beyond me (seriously - FOUR prime ministers ago - someone who started in office the day I was born), but it's the usual knee-jerk reaction of anything someone attacks a union, apparently.

Of course, you could also follow it up by "anyone that disagrees is stupid and/or ignorant" just to further proof how infallible your opinion is and discourage people from bothering to argue with you. Hint: If you have to insult random people who disagree with you, on the basis that they disagree with you, your argument isn't strong enough. If you have to do this before they can offer a reply (so you're judging people who disagree with you not on any other basis) then they won't normally bother to reply. Not because you've won but because they don't want to have to fight with you to pick out all the fine details.

Me? I have a quiet afternoon at work and hate people stating opinions and fact and daring people to disagree. However, comments are welcome. Disagree with me or not, I'm not that bothered, but if you want to *discuss* things, without stating horribly out-blown "facts" and attacks on people who retired decades ago, no problem.

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Megaphone

The effect of politician's actions

...carry on for decades after they made their wish come true.

Incidentally a lot of history occurred before you were born, would you like to discount that too?

Like it or not, today's inability of trade unions to be able to fully protect their members can be laid squarely at the foot of Thatcher in the 80s.

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Silver badge

Re:The effect of politician's actions

Is that so? So it's all Thatcher's fault is it?

So when Labour, the party of the unions, was in power for several terms - of which at least one was by a landslide giving full law-making ability on their own - and they chose not to repeal any of the laws/regulations concerning trade unions and the ability to strike, then that wasn't even a factor in your mind? It was still all Thatcher was it? They had the chance, they did nothing when they could have, therefore they are complicit. They wanted to appeal to big business and turned their back so don't make out it was all Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher - that's just ignorant blinkered political thinking.

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New Labour?

Surely you mean "Tory Lite"?

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5%

Don't we all want a 5% pay rise but we aren't all necessarily going to get it.

I didn't get a pay rise last year and I won't be getting one for the next two years either. I've accepted this and budgeted accordingly.

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FAIL

Anyone heard of proof reading

The reason for cancellation, is as many have suggested down to incompetence. The ballot papers were obviously not proof read before they were popped of to be printed. By industrial relations law a ballot paper must contain 2 questions, 'are you willing to take industrial action upto but not including a strike' and 'are you will to take industrial action unto and including a strike' (or words to that effect)

The ballot papers sent out, did not include both questions, rendering the vote illegal as far as I know

AC for obvious reasons

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Headmaster

AC for obvious reasons

... those obvious reasons being the lack of proof reading of your post...?

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Anonymous Coward

AC for obvious reasons?

In what way?

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Stop

Some memorable words....

Slowly but surely the power of the so-called "trade unions has been eroded by government policy, corporate lobbying and corrupt union leaders to the point where they are a complete farce. No longer do unions represent the interests of workers in the face of corporate fascism, but instead are 'business partners' with the employers, often resulting in the ridiculous idea of a corporation refusing to "acknowledge" a union they don't have a "partnership" with, regardless of the number of employees who may be members of other unions. In other words, Corporations are slowly coming to own unions and decide union policy without consultation to the worker. Furthermore, unions are now becoming involved in issues beyond their remit, excersising powers to achieve meta-political goals and flexing 'rights' as little more than PR exercises.

Well, for them all I have a few words they'd do well to remember: "Teamster", "Wildcat" and "Sabot" to begin with.

If you push workers too hard; if you corner them and abuse them; if you restrict their rights, pay or conditions too far, then you can expect to see clear demonstrations of those words. Last time it was just the miners. If you don't want the entire nation up in arms then I suggest you take a brief read of the history books and learn some fairness and good judgement.

Quickly.

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FAIL

Halted my arse!

The inside word is they got such a small amount of support they came out with this excuse than publish what actually happened - a clear 'no bloody way' vote.

Such a huge amount of the workers not supporting the union would certainly come under the "rather embarassing" category!

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