the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

4 May 2010

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary, highlights the attitude of the main political parties on the issues which affect BECTU members and finds that BECTU is "safer with Labour and most threatened by the Conservatives".

Gerry Morrissey speaking at an event at the Houses of ParliamentGerry Morrissey argues that the interests of the cultural sector will be better served by Labour. Pic Stefano Cagnoni 

The following piece appears in the May 2010 issue of the union journal Stage, Screen and Radio. 

Gerry Morrissey writes:

"As polling day arrives, many are still deciding who to vote for. A comparison of the main parties’ manifestos coupled with a look at their records in office makes clear  that on the issues most important to BECTU members – whether it’s the minimum wage, the BBC or broadcasting generally, film, arts funding, pensions, trade union rights – we are safer with Labour and most threatened by the Conservatives.

National Minimum Wage

Labour will raise the NMW in line with average earnings until 2015. Liberals are going further in some ways saying the NMW will apply at the same rate to all workers over the age of 16 other than those on apprenticeships, but make no commitment to raising it. The Conservatives propose no increases.

Public service cuts

We know there are going to be cuts in the public sector and these will affect many of our members. However the Conservatives have said that they will reduce the deficit quicker than Labour proposes and in order to achieve this there will have to be deeper public cuts. While Labour will retain the Film Tax Credit the other parties have nothing to say on this.

Arts funding

Labour will not cut this year’s Arts Council budget. The Tories have made no commitment, and the Liberals are advocating changing the taxation regime around the National Lottery in a way that they envisage creating additional revenues for training, mentoring and small grants to creative businesses.

What plans for the BBC?

Labour guarantees the licence fee for the 10-year duration of its Royal Charter. The Liberal Democrats believe that the BBC should remain strong and free from interference, however they are committed to the 25% independent quota to be extended to BBC Radio which would threaten several hundred BBC staff jobs. The Conservatives  have no positive manifesto comment or commitment and have stated that they will consider using part of the licence fee to fund broadband with one of the beneficiaries being BSkyB and the Conservative donors Carphone Warehouse.

On public service broadcasting generally the Conservatives say very little apart from axeing the cross media ownership rules to allow local newspapers to own other local media platforms, which could result in one company monopolising local news and reducing the diversity of opinion.

Contracts have been offered for the IFNC licences – but the Tories have said they will not implement them and would prefer to leave regional news to the  market place.

Equality and pensions

Labour’s Equality Act is likely to come under threat from a Conservative government.

There are also big differences on maternity and paternity leave, and on pensions Labour will restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings from 2012, a link broken by the Tories in 1980. They are supporting  automatic enrolment in occupational pension schemes and new personal pension accounts with matched contributions from employers and government.

The Tories are bringing forward  to 2016 the raising of the age at which you are entitled to a state pension and will look at abolishing the state retirement age but have made no commitment. The Liberals have made a commitment to scrap it and they have agreed to restate the link between pensions and earnings up to 2.5%.

Labour our 'closest ally'

I have said many times that BECTU does not slavishly support the Labour Party and lobbies hard when we disagree. But a critical look at what’s on offer shows that overall, on the matters that affect our members’ working lives, Labour is our closest ally."

 Read more on BECTU's review of the parties' statements on labour and industry issues.