Thompson faces double strike threat

Thompson: meeting with unions

Mark Thompson has begun his first week as BBC director general and editor-in-chief with the threat of at least two strikes already on his hands.

The NUJ is preparing to ballot its 25,000 BBC membership for a vote to strike after the union rejected an annual pay offer of “less than inflation” from management at the beginning of the month.

BBC management refused the union’s demand for a 5 per cent rise, countering with a 2.7 per cent offer tabled on 3 June. The offer was rejected as having fallen well short of the 4.3 per cent rise in the licence fee earlier in the year. NUJ and Bectu negotiators believed the BBC could have tabled a more generous offer, after pay had been pegged slightly above inflation for two years.

A particular grievance is that journalists on night shift are paid different rates depending on when their shifts start. In addition, the night pay rates only cover the hours between midnight and 6am, falling thereafter.

The NUJ insisted that some night shifts carried on beyond 6am – sometimes to 8am – and should be subject to the same rate.

Bectu is also on the brink of a strike in objection to the imminent sale of BBC Technology, which threatens the compulsory loss of jobs.

It is understood Thompson met with the trade unions on Wednesday to discuss the situations.

BOARD TO RENEW FOCUS ON JOURNALISM

One of Thompson’s first moves as director general was to establish a separate journalism board, led by deputy director general Mark Byford. The announcement came as part of a shake-up of the 16strong executive committee, which replaced it with a nine-member executive board and three new boards, placing journalism at the heart of the Thompson’s vision for the BBC.

Thompson said on Wednesday that BBC governors had “rightly rejected” splitting the director general and editor-in-chief roles after the Hutton Inquiry.

“Nonetheless I recognise that the BBC’s journalism will require more continuous and concentrated editorial leadership,” he said. “I have asked Mark Byford to make journalism the centrepiece of his role as deputy director general.”

The journalism board also includes Richard Sambrook, director of news; Pat Loughrey, director of nations and regions; and the director of the World Service and global news – currently an acting role held by Nigel Chapman.

By Wale Azeez

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