More than 2,000 BBC journalists vote for strike action

More than 2,000 journalists working for the BBC at centres across the UK have voted in favour of strike action in protest at planned reforms to their pension scheme.

Figures released last night by the National Union of Journalists reveal the extent to which its members are angered by management proposals to cap their pension contributions.

Of around 3,500 NUJ members at the BBC, 2,251 voted in the ballot with 2,107 (94 per cent) voting for strike action and 2,175 (97 per cent) voting for some form of industrial action short of a strike.

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 depth of resentment against reform plans more widely across the corporation was revealed earlier yesterday as the joint unions; Bectu, Unite and the NUJ revealed that 90 per cent of members that took part in ballots across the unions voted for a strike.

Bectu held three separate ballots of members at BBC Worldwide, BBC Studios & Post Production and of other union members in the corporation.

At BBC Worldwide, 50 per cent of Bectu’s members took part in the ballot with all voting for strike action, while at BBC Studios & Post Production, 48 per cent of members took part in the vote with 85 per cent voting for strike action.

The result of the third ballot – in which 57 per cent of Bectu’s remaining members took part – resulted in 90 per cent voting for strike action.

The actual number of people taking part in each of Bectu’s ballots was not revealed by the union.

It is understood that a final decision on strike dates will not be taken for a fortnight to accommodate talks with management on a new proposals which are expected to be made public by the middle of September.

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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