Industrial action at O2 has been averted after pay talks between the operator and the Communication Workers Union made a breakthrough last Friday.
Union negotiators reported the meeting was positive with O2 agreeing for the first time to discuss a deal on pay progression for O2's retail, engineering and technical staff.
The breakthrough came just days after the union had threatened industrial action if O2 did not raise its offer of a 2% pay rise and agree to talks on pay progression.
The CWU is arguing that O2's offer of 2% does not meet the current rate of inflation, which is running at around 3.7%, according to the Retail Price Index. It also wants a pay progression deal which would see any pay rise incorporated into workers' basic pay levels rather than given as a one-off lump sum.
Lead negotiator Ian Cuthbert said: 'We had a positive meeting today in which we explored with O2 management what pay progression, for those who do not have it, could look like. This was a welcome development and were heartened that O2 has changed its stance from an outright 'no' to one of discussion.'
He added: 'We reaffirmed our determination for a better pay offer significantly higher than 2% and also for ways to address pay progression which is currently non-existent for certain grades in the company. We're determined to explore every avenue to find an amicable settlement but we have told O2 that this is not open-ended.'
O2 is expected to respond within the next two weeks.
An O2 spokeswoman said: 'We believe the offer of 2% we have
made is fair and reasonable, especially as we have offered pay increases
consistently during a deep recession when others have made pay freezes. However
we are open to consider any proposal the union make and remain committed to
seeking a satisfactory solution.'