Britain's BT faces threat of first strike in 20 yrs

* Union confident of support for industrial action

* BT hopeful of averting strike, says pay offer fair

LONDON, June 4 (Reuters) - British telecoms provider BT BT.L is likely to face its first industrial action in 20 years if it does not improve on a 2 percent pay-rise offer to staff, a top trade union official told BBC Radio on Friday.

Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said he had no doubt the more than 50,000 BT workers his union represents would vote in favour of industrial action in a ballot.

The CWU said last week it would ballot its members on industrial action if BT did not come back with a better offer by Friday.

“We will have no alternative but to ballot our members for industrial action,” Kerr told the BBC’s Today programme on Friday. He did not say what form the action might take.

BT said it was hopeful of reaching an agreement in the next few weeks before any action began. A spokesman reiterated that the company’s offer was fair, and more generous than pay awards the union had accepted at other companies.

Britain’s economy is expected to grow by 1.3 percent this year, according to the latest projections from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. [ID:nLAG006295]

But average weekly earnings including bonuses rose 4 percent in the three months to March, the biggest rise since the second quarter of 2008. The jobless rate held steady at 8 percent. [ID:nLDE64B12S]

BT workers voted overwhelmingly to back the strike ballot on the same day they learned that Chief Executive Ian Livingtone would receive a bonus of 1.2 million pounds ($1.8 million) after hitting targets for financial performance and customer service.

The head of Britain’s union told Reuters on Thursday he believed tougher anti-union laws were certain under Britain’s new government and would trigger confrontation with workers already angered by proposed spending cuts. [ID:nLDE6512AP]

British Airways BAY.L cabin crew have staged a series of strikes in a long-running and bitter dispute over the airline's cost-cutting drive and staffing levels. [ID:nLDE6501IU] ($1=.6831 Pound) (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Avril Ormsby; editing by Karen Foster)


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