14 October 2010
Union members employed by the BBC, Studios and Post-Production Ltd and BBC Worldwide will start voting tomorrow (Friday 15 October) on the BBC's final offer on pensions after intense talks lasting more than three months.
The ballot, administered by Electoral Reform Services, will close at 12 noon on Thursday 28 October.
The unions affected - BECTU, the NUJ and Unite - will be urging all of their members to take part in the vote. BECTU's ballot papers were despatched by the ERS today (Thursday 14 October).
Accompanying BECTU's ballot papers is a four-page letter from general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, and supervisory official, Helen Ryan, which provides detailed commentary on the BBC's offer. The letter deals with a number of issues but the most critical of these is the proposal for future pension provision.
Explanatory letter for members in the BBC and Studios and Post Production Ltd
Official joint-union position
Commenting today on questions about a split between the unions on their advice to members, Gerry Morrissey explained:
"The official joint-union position, accepted by a majority vote of union reps from BECTU, the NUJ and Unite on 1 October, is that the unions' members should be given the opportunity to vote on the BBC's offer. The unions' reps accepted the advice of negotiators that the offer is the best that can be achieved through negotiation.
"It is essential that members do not confuse the official position of all three unions nationally with alternative statements expressed by individual branches or chapels."
Following the decision taken by union representatives on 1 October, the joint-unions withdrew plans for strike action pending the outcome of the consultative ballots.
"In line with the decisions taken by reps on 1 October, BECTU is not recommending to its members how they should vote in the ballot. We encourage our members to consider our covering letter in full and to cast their votes based on how the proposals impact on them and in the full knowledge of what the alternatives are."
"As general secretary, I have a responsiblity to advise members honestly on what can be achieved through industrial action that has not already been achieved through negotiation. My judgement, as lead negotiator, is that nothing more can be achieved through negotiation ahead of the outcome of the triennial review of the scheme which will be known in April 2011. My considered judgement is that prolonged strike action would be needed to persuade the BBC to consider altering its position."
The union's advice to members in the ballot paperwork states:
"It is BECTU's view that this revised offer is the best that can be achieved through negotiation and we believe that to try to improve this offer would take substantial and lengthy industrial action from all of our members with significant loss in salary."
Gerry Morrissey who, together with fellow organisers, addressed thousands of members during the course of the negotiations, recognises that the options now available to members still amount to less favourable future pension provision.
However, he is also clear that members mandated the unions to continue talks with the BBC to secure the best possible revised proposals against the backdrop of a scheme deficit. The BBC claims the deficit will be between £1.5billion and £1.97billion; the joint unions consider that it could be less than £1.5billion.
Outcome of triennial review April 2011
Gerry Morrissey continued:
"Members will see when they study the union's letter that the BBC's revised proposal does address many of the joint-unions' concerns. The one exception relates to those members purchasing added years or paying into AVC Plus. More details are provided in our explanatory letter.
"That said, it is clear that the unions will have the option to re-open talks with the BBC if next April the scheme deficit is less than £1.5billion.
"BECTU's ballot paperwork also makes it clear that no-one will be compelled to alter their pension position until December 2011, long after the outcome of the scheme revaluation is published.
"We invite members to consider the arguments carefully and to weigh up the offer on the table against the need for concerted strike action in a bid to secure further improvements.
"Finally, there should be no mistake amongst BECTU members about the union's position. If our members choose to reject the BBC's proposals we will lead, and support them, in a campaign of industrial action."
Whilst plans for strike action have been suspended until the consultative ballots are concluded, the unions will protect the mandate secured on 1 September with action short of strike on Friday 22 October.
The pensions offer for staff directly employed by the BBC and Studios and Post Production Ltd is linked to proposals for the pay review for 2010/11 and to revised procedures for the treatment of staff facing compulsory redundancy. In addition, the offer sets out new procedures for staff acting-up for prolonged periods in more senior roles.
Members in BBC Worldwide accepted a pay review for 2010/11 in August.
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