Joint unions vote for strike action across the BBC

Members of the National Union of Journalists, the broadcasting union Bectu and Unite at the BBC have voted in favour of strike action in protest at planned changes to the corporation’s pension scheme.

The ballot came to an end at noon today and was followed by a series of meetings between union officials over the likely course of industrial action.

Precise details of the result are not yet known, however a joint statement from the unions this afternoon said ballots on industrial action had drawn ‘overwhelming backing’as more than 90 per cent of those taking part voted for strike action over the planned reforms to the pension scheme.

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According to BBC News, the vote in favour of strike action was followed by the corporation’s director general, Mark Thompson, emailing staff saying that a new pension proposal would be outlined later in the month.

The joint unions said a final decision on what possible strike action could be taken would not be taken for a fortnight to accomodate talks with management on the new proposals.

Despite the emergence of the new plans, Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of Bectu, said the size of the ballot result gave the unions a ‘resounding mandate for strike action”.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: ‘The massive scale of this vote is unprecedented – it is a reflection of the wave of anger and sense of betrayal which has greeted the BBC’s attempted pensions robbery.

‘BBC management have an opportunity to avoid deeply damaging strike action by guaranteeing the value of pensions already earned and withdrawing their punitive and draconian proposals.’

The strike ballot came about after BBC managers revealed plans in June to tackle a £2bn deficit in the corporation’s pension fund 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.

Staff, who at a meeting last month urged bosses to scrap the planned changes to the pension scheme, 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.

Unrest intensified after it was revealed in July that deputy director general Mark Byford had already amassed a pension pot worth £3.4 million.

Thompson attempted to curtail anger last month 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 remuneration 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 lose a month’s salary for each of the next two years. Thompson’s total remuneration next year would fall to around £600,000.

Thompson used his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival last weekend to reveal how the corporation’s top brass would not be exempt from budgetary cutbacks.



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