the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

23 September 2009

The decision by Johnson Controls International to announce a wage freeze has provoked a dispute which could affect the operation of the BBC's London-based premises.

BBC Broadcasting HouseBBC Broadcasting House, London: one of the landmark buildings managed by JCI.         Pic: Tony Scott

BECTU has condemned the announcement as 'hypocritical and derisory' given that JCI managers remain in line for a bonus based on the company's overall performance. 

The announcement, which follows talks with recognised unions BECTU and Unite, will anger the 300 plus ex-BBC staff who now work for the contractor.

With talks now stalled, both unions are set to run a consultative ballot of their members to test the appetite for a ballot for industrial action. Postal strike permitting, ballot papers were due to be issued today, Wednesday, by BECTU with the result expected on Tuesday 13 October.

“Management ‘s position is that a pay freeze is necessary because of the financial restraints of the BBC account.  However, given that senior management may still receive a bonus based on the wider performance of the company the decision is hypocritical and derisory," commented national official, Suresh Chawla. 

The unions' initial claim for a flat rate increase of £1800 was subsequently brought into line with the settlement agreed by BBC staff earlier this year; and yet despite this adjustment, JCI is refusing to recognise the commitment of staff at a time marked by staff shortages, unfilled posts and increased workloads. 

'Staff supportive'

“Our members have continued to be very supportive to the employer during these turbulent times and this is highlighted by the fact that losses on the contract have been cut by almost half in the past year; these savings are in large part due to the efforts of the staff.

"However this goodwill is unlikely to continue now and could hamper JCI's attempts to negotiate a three-year extension to their contract with the BBC." Suresh Chawla continued.

JCI's decision could also have a negative knock-on effect for BECTU members in catering and cleaning who work for Aramark and OCS. As service partners to JCI, these companies have said that they can only afford a pay rise for their staff if this is funded by JCI.   

"It is unacceptable for our members in BBC contractor companies to be subjected to a pay freeze when their colleagues alongside in BBC Workplace are rightly receiving the reasonable increases sought for all staff.” Suresh Chawla concluded.

Representatives will be leafleting BBC buildings on Friday 2 and Friday 9 October to gather support for their campaign.