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Murdoch's News Corporation exposed

Posted by Gerry Morrissey on 24 July 2011

With apparent relentless regularity BECTU has prepared formal submission after formal submission on the media over the years.

Our aim? To protect the public interest in the face of determined commercial moves to secure further deregulation. Too often we have been disappointed at the response of the regulators and of government. (See our substantive submission on News Corp's then planned takeover of BSkyB). 

So we have watched with amazement at events this month which have revealed the ruinous effects of News Corporation’s dominance of UK media, a case of overwhelmingly excessive power in the hands of the few working against the best interests of UK democracy. At long last the powers that be have been forced to question, at the most fundamental level, the disproportionate, unfettered influence of News Corporation on key institutions, amongst them parliament and the Metropolitan police service.

The momentous nature of all that has happened, highlighted by Rupert and James Murdoch’s appearance before the Commons Culture Select Committee earlier this week, promises the kind of change which BECTU has been calling for for years. We regret the innocent casualities of News International’s rabid search for yet more influence – the victims of phone-hacking and the staff affected by the closure of the News of the World. Whilst the scandal will play out further over the coming months and even years, we are keeping a careful eye on the possible fallout for staff at BSkyB, several of whom are BECTU members.

Legal advice on BBC pensions

With a couple of weeks leave on the horizon, I have been working with colleagues and our legal advisers over the past few days to finalise further advice for BBC members ahead of the 1 August two per cent pay award, the first to see the increase for pensionable pay capped at one per cent for continuing members of the final salary schemes. BBC members should login to access the advice online.   

West End theatre talks reach key stage

Also reaching a key stage in recent weeks have been the long-running pay and conditions talks affecting our members in West End theatres.

BECTU officials and SOLT managers have agreed to separate off talks about show bonuses, Sunday working and overtime rates from discussions about the new skills based grading structure and the overdue general updating of the SOLT/BECTU agreement.

This new accord is a breakthrough which will bring forward the introduction of positive changes agreed during discussions over the past three years whilst talks on the pay elements continue. An update is being prepared for BECTU members; in the meantime questions can be put to Willy Donaghy, supervisory official, or to Patrick Styles, national official. The branch committee has also set up a new page on facebook BECTU Works in West End Theatres.

Public sector cuts

Before the month is out, I’d also like to congratulate my public service union colleagues on their successful day of action (30 June) in protest at government spending cuts. This work is vital and continues .... despite the dominance of a single story in recent weeks!

Work experience and internships

Finally, I want to encourage new entrants working throughout the sectors organised by BECTU to keep reporting their experience of work experience and internships. (Please email Sharon Elliott, communications officer). We have received some excellent feedback so far (sources will be protected) to help us to press the case with employers and the authorities for stronger enforcement of the National Minimum Wage regulations.

Young people are our future and we must challenge all efforts to exploit them and to convert our professional, high standard industries into low-paid, voluntary enterprises.  

More from me next month.

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