THE situation being faced by striking BT Group workers in Newport - and across the UK - has been described as "galling" and "a kick in the teeth".

Those are the words of two of the city's elected officials who joined workers on the picket line this morning.

Jayne Bryant MS and Ruth Jones MP represent Newport West in the Senedd and in Westminster respectively.

They joined BT and Openrach workers outside their Factory Road site this morning in a show of solidarity.

More than 40,000 BT Group workers have voted to hold a two-day national strike, with senior management accused by communications union CWU general secretary Dave Ward as having “stuck two fingers up” to key workers.

The announcement followed a strike ballot, in which Openreach engineers voted for action by 95.8 per cent and members in BT returned a 91.5 per cent majority for the walkout.

South Wales Argus:

The strike comes after it was announced that BT's annual profit was £1.3 billion, with CEO Philip Jansen gaining a £3.5 million pay package – a 32 per cent wage increase.

This in turn comes amid reports of BT offices establishing food banks to assist employees.

South Wales Argus:

Ms Bryant said: “This strike has come as a last resort for the workforce.

"It is a kick in the teeth for them when the profits of the BT Group are significant.

"The company have not negotiated with the workforce with regards to pay and past promises have failed to materialise.

"I’d urge the company to get around the table and ensure that consultation and proper discussions are had to agree a solution.”

The dispute centres on workers opposing the imposition by the business of a flat-rate, £1,500pa pay settlement on employees, which they view as a real-terms pay cut when compared to RPI inflation levels of more than 11 per cent.

South Wales Argus:

A BT spokesperson, however, said this was the "highest pay award BT Group has made in more than 20 years".

Ms Jones said: "The workers on the picket line have just reason for taking this strike action today.

South Wales Argus:

"The current pay award is below the rate of inflation and has been imposed on staff without going through the regular consultation machinery. This opens the way for other changes such as redundancies to be imposed in the future.

"It is particularly galling to note that the BT CEO has awarded himself a 32 per cent pay rise this year, but expects his staff to manage on a below inflation award.

"The CWU workers are fighting to protect future jobs and terms and conditions and I am pleased to be able to support them in this."

In a statement, releasedd earlier today, a BT Group spokesperson said: “While we’re disappointed that the CWU has decided to take industrial action, we respect the decision by their members to take industrial action.

“We will work to minimise any disruption and keep our customers and the country connected.

“BT Group awarded a fully consolidated pay increase to its team member and frontline colleagues of £1,500.

"This is the highest pay award BT Group has made in more than 20 years."