Patience runs out on BT London Weighting

Telecoms & Financial Services

Members across the capital have delivered an unequivocal message to BT that patience is running out at the company’s persistent refusal to increase London Weighting payments that have stood still since 2012/13.

In a consultative ballot of around 6,000 members of the union’s four London T&FS branches last month, 99 per cent of respondents agreed it is now essential that London Weighting  (LW) is increased.

With 92 per cent of respondents confirming they are “prepared to take part in the campaign to engage BT in negotiations” the scene is now set for a concerted CWU drive to secure movement from the company after six years of stonewalling.

Following repeated company brush-offs to successive CWU requests for talks – the latest of which was lodged in 2017 – assistant secretary Dave Jukes stressed that the decision to hold a consultative ballot was “just the first step” in a campaign that is, first and foremost, driven by a groundswell of anger from the grass roots.

“The four London branches have quite simply decided that enough is enough,” he explains. “If the company is not prepared to come to the negotiating table on the back of this clear expression of workforce dismay we’ll have to consider what actions we will have to take because we simply can’t be ignored any longer.

“Ultimately it is up to our London branches and members to decide what those actions comprise  – but BT needs to reflect on the fact that we’ve been very patient up to now – and that patience has finally expired.”

The last major campaign for a LW increase – which was itself triggered by years of standstill, took place in 2005 – but, following a negotiated settlement in 2006, the company adopted a formula under which an increase of three quarters of the annual percentage pay award was applied to LW payments.

That ceased following a company review in 2013, however, and since then inner and outer LW payments have remained static at £3,380 and £1,637 respectively.

Greater London Combined branch secretary John Ballard – secretary of the CWU’s London BT Committee, which is co-ordinating the current fightback – concludes: “The stark reality is that the last time the CWU members working for BT in London received a rise to their London Weighting was before the 2012 Olympics.

“The impact this is now having on the living standards of our membership in the most expensive part of the country to live and work in means this is now a hot issue that is raised routinely by members of all four London branches at every possible opportunity.

“A number of local managers have privately admitted that they are as exasperated as us because, frankly, it’s a hindrance to recruitment – especially given the fact that many comparable companies, including British Gas, now pay LW levels that are significantly higher.

“The hope is that the clear dissatisfaction reflected in the consultative ballot result brings BT back to the negotiating table.

“If not, the company needs to take stock of the fact that 92 per cent of our members who voted in this ballot are prepared to actively participate in the campaign. Evidence of just how strongly people feel about this issue doesn’t come clearer than that.”