BBC plans to scrap pension top-ups for execs

BBC director general Mark Thompson has attempted to curtail staff anger about planned changes to the corporation’s pension scheme by proposing to scrap pension top-up payments made to senior executives, totalling around £1m each year.

The move is likely to see Thompson’s annual salary of £838,000 reduced by £163,000 annually – a drop of just below 20 per cent.

The BBC Trust previously indicated that senior staff had agreed to forgo a month’s salary for each of the next two years. Thompson’s total remuneration next year would fall to around £600,000.

A total around 30 senior staff are understood to be in line to lose pension top-ups if the Funded Unapproved Retirement Benefit Scheme (Furbs) is dropped.

Thompson made his announcement during a staff meeting yesterday to discuss the ongoing consolation of plans announced in June to tackle a £2bn deficit in the corporation’s pension fund.

The BBC is planning to deal with its deficit by closing the staff defined benefit pension scheme to new joiners and capping contributions of existing members to just a one per cent increase per year from next April, a move which has greatly angered staff.

During the meeting employees, who have also been upset by a below-inflation flat pay increase of £475 for staff paid up to £37,726 a year and pay-freeze for those earning more than that, urged bosses to scrap changes to the pension scheme.

The proposals are so unpopular they have led to a vote on strike action by members of the National Union of Journalists, Unite and Bectu – the result of which is expected early in September.

The NUJ yesterday praised the move to curb executive pensions but warned that it would not be enough to remove the threat of industrial action at the corporation.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “Whilst we welcome moves to curtail excessive pensions at the BBC, we are asking for radical action to be taken to cap the highest levels of executive pensions.

“The BBC has taken pension holidays and has underpaid into the pensions scheme for years. Now the BBC plan to break the promises they made to staff.

“It is unacceptable. Unless the value of pensions already earned is fully protected then it is inevitable the BBC will face industrial action to stop this pension robbery.”

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