The National Union of Journalists has welcomed a proposal from new BBC director general Tony Hall to cap redundancy payments for senior executives to £150,000.
The NUJ has expressed concern at payouts in recent years which have included: £949,000 for head of news and deputy director general Mark Byford, £670,000 to former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson and £450,000 to George Entwistle after 54 days in the post of director general.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is a welcome development. These obscene payments were being paid while other members of the BBC were being forced out of their jobs.
“I hope this is the first of a number of measures by Lord Hall to cut waste at the BBC.
“He has inherited a deal brokered by former director general Mark Thompson in which the licence fee is frozen until 2017 at the same time as taking on £340 million-worth of new responsibilities, such as the World Service and the roll-out of fast broadband.
“The so-called Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme will involve the loss of 2,000 jobs across the BBC – you can’t make cuts of that size without seriously undermining quality journalism.
“Reports by the National Audit Office and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have echoed the NUJ’s concerns that the BBC is rushing headlong into a programme of major cuts to programming without carrying a basic risk assessment on how it will affect quality.
“That is why the NUJ and sister union Bectu have called for a six-month moratorium in order to have a constructive discussion with BBC management on how to manage the cuts and assess the impact on staff and on BBC output. This is a genuine offer to discuss how they can best be made without having a detrimental impact of the quality of programmes and without adding to the workload and stress levels of our members. At present we have a situation where redundancies are being made in one part of the organisation while vacancies are being advertised in another.”
Tony Hall said in a statement to staff: “Since I arrived at the BBC at the beginning of the month, a key concern from people I have met has been the large amount of severance pay, including redundancy, the BBC has paid to former managers. Today I am proposing capping these payments at £150,000.
“I believe that we have to address this because the settlements of the past can no longer be justified. It’s right, of course, that anyone who has given many years of service to the organisation should receive a percentage of their salary if they are made redundant. But, in the current economic climate, when our licence fee payers are facing tough economic circumstances themselves, when we are making programme cuts and we are asking our staff to do more with less, we have to limit the size of these payments.”