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Union members at the BBC vote on Jubilee strike

BECTU's flag in gold and blue. BECTU's strike ballot at the BBC could see industrial action over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend.

1 May 2012

BECTU members are joining with their colleagues in the NUJ and Unite in a bid to persuade the BBC to return to talks on the 2012-13 pay review. Voting starts today (1 May) on a ballot for industrial action.

The BBC's one per cent pay offer - decried as derisory by the joint unions - prompted the ballot for industrial action which, if backed by union members, could see action over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend.

BECTU members directly employed by the BBC and by Studios and Post Production have been sent ballot papers.

In addition to pay, members are frustrated at the BBC's refusal to implement the redeployment agreement negotiated in 2011.

BBC staff face severe cutbacks, 2000 job losses and further attacks on their terms and conditions as a result of Delivering Quality First the controversial cost-cutting strategy led by director general, Mark Thompson, which seeks to save £800m by 2017.

Letter to members

Writing to BECTU members as part of the ballot process, general secretary, Gerry Morrissey said:

Dear Colleague

BBC Industrial Action Ballot

You have recently received correspondence from myself regarding the dispute with the BBC as a result of them imposing the 1% pay award from June of this year.  This dispute is not only about the BBC’s 1% pay award, which the Joint Unions believe is derisory, it is equally about the lack of process and the failure by the BBC to have meaningful negotiations with your trade unions. 

If this was a simple one-off snub to the unions then it could be excused, however it is not. This trade dispute is not just about the imposition of pay but also the imposition of the new appraisals procedure and a failure by the BBC to implement the redeployment commitments agreed with the unions in October last year. 

We therefore have no alternative but to commence a ballot for industrial action.  I enclose a ballot paper and we are recommending that you vote Yes to both questions and return the ballot paper in the enclosed prepaid envelope to the independent scrutineer.

Why is this important? 

It is vitally important that the BBC negotiates properly with the trade unions and should attempt to reach an agreement.  If they are allowed to pay lip service to the concerns of our members, then this would become common place rather than the exception. 

Dealing with the issues in front of us now, I would ask you to consider the following points:

Pay

The BBC at its meeting on 29 February said they would be making a one and final offer to us of 1% subject to no-one receiving less than £400.  We made it clear that we felt this offer was unacceptable bearing in mind that the pay of our members in the BBC has fallen 8% behind inflation since 2007.  However we stated that we would consult our members about the offer. 

The BBC insisted on a meeting with the unions on 23 April to hear the feedback from our members, but rather than wait for this meeting the BBC chose to impose the 1% pay award by way of the letter from Lucy Adams to staff dated 18 April.  Why ask for a meeting with the unions if the BBC does not wish to hear what they have got to say?

Redeployment Commitment

As a result of the Licence Fee settlement agreed by the Director-General with the Treasury, which froze the BBC’s licence fee until at least 2017, the BBC felt it necessary to make significant savings.  Part of these savings included 2000 redundancies which were part of the DQF proposals.  In order to reduce the need for compulsory redundancies the BBC agreed with the unions a new redeployment commitment which has not been properly implemented. 

In addition the BBC centrally has given departments the right to employ casuals for up to 12 weeks, this was previously four weeks, without the requirement to look at employees who are facing redundancy due to DQF cuts.  Yet another example of the BBC doing what they want to do and ignoring the parts of the agreement which they find too difficult to implement.

Appraisals procedure

The BBC has imposed a new appraisals procedure which involves giving individual ratings to staff.  Despite numerous requests from the unions to remove the scoring element, the BBC has refused to do so.  We believe that the BBC will use the appraisals’ ratings as a means of selecting staff for redundancy and if left unchallenged, will in our view lead to discrimination and the future employment of our members’ being decided by individual managers.

What dangers lie ahead?

Looking ahead, if the BBC are allowed to impose their will then we are confident that the same will apply for the months and years to come.  Last autumn the Joint Unions had to threaten industrial action to stop the BBC from withdrawing the UPA payments and make significant changes to redundancy payments and other conditions of employment.  As a result of the Joint Unions stance, no such changes can happen before the end of 2012 at the earliest. 

However if we allow the BBC to impose the 1% pay award, impose a new appraisals procedure and get away without implementing the redeployment commitment then the temptation of the BBC will be to impose lower pay rates, reduce or remove UPA payments, reduce redundancy payments and make other changes to conditions of employment in the future.

What form of action are the Joint Unions likely to take?

I must reiterate our preference is to reach a mutual settlement however this can only happen with the BBC entering into meaningful negotiations and not attempting to impose their will. 

In the event that you vote Yes to both questions in this ballot this will give us the mandate to invite the BBC to return to the negotiating table.  However if they refuse then we must take action at a time when it causes the BBC the most disruption. That time, in the view of your representatives, is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and one element of our campaign will be to instruct members to withdraw labour at selected times during this period.  We will also instruct members to boycott the new appraisals procedure which you will legally be able to do if we get a Yes vote to both questions

Other forms of action will be considered by your representatives but I reiterate we wish to reach a negotiated settlement.  We want to know that in the future, which is going to be extremely difficult for everyone in the BBC, management will enter into meaningfully dialogue with the unions and not just try to impose their will.

Finally I would like to thank you for all of your support up to now and I would urge you to vote Yes to both questionsand return the ballot paper today.  

Ballot deadline

The ballot closes at 12.00 noon on Monday 21 May 2012.

 

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