NUJ: Anger at Byford's payoff likely to contribute to strike

The National Union of Journalists has warned that growing anger over the ‘massive payoff’being given to outgoing deputy director general Mark Byford was likely to contribute to strike action unless the BBC again revisited its pension plans.

Byford is understood to be departing with two-years’ pay of around £1m and a pension pot amassed over 32 years of £3.4m.

A staff consultative ballot over the BBC’s latest pension proposals is underway however Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, last night predicted union members would vote ‘no’leaving the corporation facing a ‘winter of growing discontent”.

BBC staff are considering whether to accept the latest in a series of proposed changes to their pension scheme instigated to tackle a deficit of more than £1.5 billion.

Dear also warned that cuts of up to 25 per cent at the World Service, the closure of additional services and ongoing job cuts caused by a freeze in licence fee funding were likely to lead to further disputes and strikes in the coming months.

He said last night: ‘The BBC’s latest pension proposals are the result of months of tough negotiations but the fact is they remain unfair and unacceptable to a majority of staff.

‘Thousands of staff are expected to pay more for less and to work longer for the privilege.

‘With the prospect of pensions being devalued by tens of thousands of pounds it is little wonder that the overwhelming mood at meetings is to reject and to campaign for a fairer pensions deal.

‘Add to that anger the massive pay off Mark Byford has been given, the threat of job cuts and service closures at the World Service and the inevitable consequence that as a result of the funding freeze fewer staff will be expected to cut more corners to deliver BBC services and there is a real prospect of a winter of growing discontent”.

The new pension offer – tabled by the BBC at the 11th hour to avert strike action earlier this month – led to BBC staff being offered “key improvements” on an earlier proposal, including reduced employee contributions in a new career average pension scheme (from seven per cent to six per cent) as well as other changes.

The new proposals also included new measures to provide staff facing compulsory redundancy with time to identify alternative employment in the BBC.

Dear’s latest warning over strikes followed an announcement that Byford was being made redundant – one of a series of changes as the corporation restructured its executive board to meet a plan to reduced executive pay by 25 per cent by the end of next year.

The BBC announced this morning that the post of director of BBC Marketing, Communications and Audiences would also go and Sharon Baylay would leave the organisation.

Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, and Lucy Adams, director of BBC People, will continue in their roles but will step down from the executive board and join the new BBC operating committee.

The BBC’s MC&A and People divisions will cease to be stand-alone divisions and will both join expanded operations group led by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson.

It was announced on Tuesday that Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, was to join the restructured executive board to represent BBC journalism at the UK and international level and for the English regions.

The move comes because Byford had also acted as the BBC’s head of journalism.

Union ballots on whether to accept the new pension proposals will close on 28 October, the NUJ said.

Strikes scheduled for 19 and 20 October have been postponed to allow for the ballot to take place, the NUJ added, but a 24-hour work to rule would take place on 22 October.

The unions are expected to inform the BBC of a series of additional strike dates which may be activated in the event of a no vote in the consultative ballot.

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