Thousands of BT and Openreach workers are to strike today (Friday, July 29) in a dispute over pay, which could cause broadband disruption for its customers.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it will be the first national telecoms strike since 1987 and the biggest ever among call centre workers.

Another strike will be held on Monday, August 1 after union members voted in favour of industrial action in protest at a £1,500 pay rise.

As reported by The Express the CWU expects a range of BT services to be hit by the strike action with call centres and engineer visits thought to be worst affected.

Swanage and Wareham Voice: BT has said it will cancel any pre-planned software updates on the days of the strikes (PA)BT has said it will cancel any pre-planned software updates on the days of the strikes (PA)

BT said it hopes to keep things running as smoothly as possible. The firm has also promised that it will work to reduce the impact of any industrial action by, for example, postponing any non-essential planned engineering or software updates.

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, said that users could still face disruption to their internet access.

Speaking to The Express, Doku said: "BT has a third of the UK’s fixed broadband subscribers, and if you’re an existing customer experiencing an internet outage or looking to have BT broadband installed, it’s possible that the strikes could affect the service you receive.

"Contact centre staff will be taking industrial action on Friday and Monday, so if you have trouble with your connection you should visit the service status page on the BT website, which should show if there are network problems or the issue is specific to your line.

"As engineers for the Openreach network will also be on strike, households hoping to have BT broadband set up this weekend should be prepared for rescheduled dates or cancellations."

Why has the strike been called?

BT revealed its first sales growth for five years on Thursday as the telecoms giant benefited from price increases for customers earlier this year.

The group said it was also boosted by more people signing up for fibre-optic broadband and strong trading in its Openreach network business.

BT told shareholders that revenues increased by 1% to £5.1 billion for the three months to June 30.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “BT Group are now gaslighting our members.

“Announcing hundreds of millions of pounds in profit on the eve of the first national strike since 1987 smacks of arrogance and complete contempt for frontline workers.

BT workers have hundreds of picket lines arranged across the UK tomorrow, and will support the CWU in delivering mass strike action.

“This dispute sits squarely at the feet of chief executive Philip Jansen. He represents everything that needs to change about big business in Britain.

“Our members kept the country connected during the pandemic. They deserve a proper pay rise, and that’s what they’re going to get."

A BT Group spokesperson said: “At the start of this year, we were in exhaustive discussions with the CWU that lasted for two months, trying hard to reach an agreement on pay.

“When it became clear that we were not going to reach an accord, we took the decision to go ahead with awarding our team member and frontline colleagues the highest pay award in more than 20 years, effective April 1.

“We have confirmed to the CWU that we won’t be reopening the 2022 pay review, having already made the best award we could.

“We’re balancing the complex and competing demands of our stakeholders and that includes making once-in-a-generation investments to upgrade the country’s broadband and mobile networks, vital for the UK economy and for BT Group’s future – including our people.

“While we respect the choice of our colleagues who are CWU members to strike, we will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected."