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BT has made an improved offer to its staff in a bid to avert the Communication Workers' Union's (CWU) threatened strike ballot, according to reports still emerging.
The Press Association has reported that BT has now put a two-year offer on the table, with pay set to rise 2% this year and 3% in 2011, alongside performance-related bonuses and other offers including, the potential return to the UK of jobs outsourced to India.
However this still falls short of the 5% that staff were demanding, and the CWU had not responded to the offer at the time of writing.
Meanwhile, rival vendors have begun
their offerings in a bid to capitalise on the disruption that would be caused to network maintenance across the country should CWU members walk out.
David Hill, chairman of web-based SME phone system provider Cloud Net, said that VoIP-based systems could provide a greater degree of resilience than traditional PBXs, thanks to the Internet's heritage as a robust military tool.
"We all know how important telephone systems are to a business. When there is a fault or a problem you need a solution. Now that engineers are preparing to strike you may not get a repair service as fast as you'd like," he warned.
"Add to the equation that mobile networks are maintained by a single company - Ericsson - whose engineers are distinctly disgruntled at the proposed redundancies and suddenly traditional communications companies don't seem the most reliable," Hill added.
Although the threat of disruption also extends to the Internet, Cloud Net said that customers would be able to plug office phones into an alternative broadband line if their BT Broadband service went down, or even dial in from home connections.