Thousands of BT workers are to be balloted for strikes after the telecoms giant failed to meet a deadline set by union leaders for the company to improve a 2% pay offer.
The Communication Workers Union said its 50,000 members will now vote on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action after today's 12 noon deadline passed.
The union decided at its annual conference last week to give BT until today to make a better offer or face the threat of the first strike for more than 20 years.
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr complained of "blatant double standards" after BT announced big bonuses for its executives, including £1.2 million for chief executive Ian Livingston.
Mr Kerr said: "We're obviously very disappointed that BT has not improved its pay offer of 2% despite their healthy profits this year.
"We now have no option than to put the wheels in motion to ballot all appropriate members in BT for strike action, which would be the first action of its kind in over 20 years.
"We've made our position very clear - 2% is not good enough when the company is making profits of over £1 billion, paying shareholders a 6% dividend and paying out large sums to senior executives while inflation is at 5.3%.
"Our members are angry about the blatant double standards when it comes to pay for those at the top compared to the rest of staff at the company. We're not asking for the earth, we're asking for a fair and affordable share of BT's success. If it's good enough for the executives it's good enough for the staff.
"We remain open to discussions with BT at any time, but only a revised pay offer will bring this dispute to an end."
Details of the timetable for the ballot will be announced by the CWU next week.
The union pointed out that BT made profits of more than £1 billion profit last year while making £1.75 billion in cost savings, partly delivered through a pay freeze, 30,000 redundancies and changes to pension schemes which CWU helped the company with.
The CWU rejected an offer it said was worth 2% on pay, plus £250 and a possible additional £250 based on meeting undisclosed targets next year.
"BT has claimed that the total payments would be equivalent to a 5.4% pay rise, however this would only be true for seven people in the company who earn a salary of just over £14,000 and the final £250 would not be paid - if at all - until June 2011," said an official.
The union, which is seeking a 5% pay rise, represents more than 50,000 BT workers in the UK, including those in call centre, engineering and retail roles.
Strike action could cause "severe disruption" across BT services, including the provision of information to major customers, the laying and maintenance of phone and broadband lines and handling customer service and business calls, said the union.
BT said: "It is in no one's interest for industrial action to take place. Our final offer is fair, realistic and more generous than those they have accepted elsewhere. This offer could see their lowest paid members receive up to 5.4% in pay and bonuses with some thousands of staff also enjoying a second pay rise in October."Reuse content