29 February 2012
Negotiators representing thousands of BBC staff have reacted angrily to an offer of a 1% pay rise in August this year.
Responding to a claim from BECTU, NUJ, and Unite, for an increase of inflation plus 2% at the first negotiating meeting in this year's pay round, BBC management described the 1% offer as "final", abruptly bringing negotiations to an end.
Union officials now intend to consult branches and chapels throughout the BBC, and expect strong opposition to the offer. By August this year, the pay anniversary date, the BBC's median pay rate will have fallen 8% behind inflation in the last five years.
Gerry Morrissey, BECTU General Secretary and lead negotiator, said: "This is a clear attempt by the BBC to make staff pay for last year's bungled negotiations over the future level of the Licence Fee.
"We can't accept a further cut in living standards for members, when the BBC has already taken tens of millions of pounds out of staffing costs by cutting 4,000 jobs, and watering down pension rights."
BBC unions have also agreed to cooperate with the Corporation on a major overhaul of terms and conditions for staff which could yield significant savings to offset the cash squeeze imposed by the new Licence fee formula.
Officials are angry that BBC management appear to have taken no account of this major concession when budgeting for this year's pay increase.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said: "Given all the sacrifices that BBC staff have made in the last year it is insulting to be offered a rise that falls three percent short of the current inflation figure".
The only concession offered by the BBC at the unprecedently-short pay talks was the possibility of an employees' seat on the Corporation's Executive Remuneration Committee, which Morrissey said "was a welcome gesture, but isn't going to pay any of our members' rising bills for food, energy, and transport".
BBC pay offers have consistently been below the rate of inflation since the Licence Fee began to increase at 2% per year in 2007, and this year's claim was intended to make up part of the pay gap that has opened between BBC staff and many other UK employers.
Last year the BBC's Director General accepted a six-year freeze on Licence Fee increases, drawing widespread criticism from unions and staff who believed that too little had been done to protect the Corporation's future income.
In addition to the claim for inflation plus 2%, unions had called for a minimum increase of £1,000 to help the increasing number of BBC staff at the bottom of the pay scales who are struggling to make ends meet as inflation continues rising. Management responded by offering a £400 minimum rise.
Meetings of BBC members will now be held across the UK, followed by a summit meeting of senior representatives who will decide what steps to take next, faced by an employer whom the unions believe has no real interest in constructive pay negotiations this year.
Members in BBC Studios and Post Production, a subsidiary company of the BBC, are covered by the offer and will be joining in the union consultation, while BBC Worldwide members, whose pay is negotiated separately, are not involved in this pay round.
Front page Salford Media City picture credit.