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BBC pensions: can strike action be averted?

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20 September 2010

Union members across the BBC will be attending meetings this week, and next, to discuss management's latest proposals on pensions. Feedback from these meetings will have a major influence on the direction the dispute takes.

BECTU and its co-organisers, the NUJ and Unite, have insisted that a solution to the dispute can only be found if entitlements built up by pension scheme members are fully protected. The unions also want the BBC to commit to further talks should official deficit figures, due in April 2011, reveal a scheme deficit of less that £1.5bn.

Download the schedule of union meetings

The next two weeks are crucial and the BBC knows that if strike action is to be averted improved proposals will need to be tabled no later than 1 October. 

It is not fair, or truthful, to group ordinary staff with senior management and to label our pension arrangements as 'gold-plated'

Union officials are due to meet again with BBC management that day followed by a  meeting with local reps from all three unions that afternoon. 

The BBC has been served with notice of strike action on 5, 6, 19 and 20 October.

Union members meeting at Television Centre this lunchtime (20 September) gave their unanimous support to this motion:

"In the absence of an improved offer from the BBC, the joint unions are instructed to activate the strike action already notified to the BBC."

Whilst the BBC tabled revised proposals on 13 September the response failed to meet the unions' key demands. In fact, it soon became clear that a substantial number of union members - not least those making additional voluntary contributions or buying added years -  would be likely to be even worse off under the new proposals.

Executive pay has damaged BBC's reputation

BBC management has faced a storm of protest from staff since it tabled proposals, in effect, to end final salary pension provision. Anger is focussed not only on what staff see as a betrayal. Many believe that excessive rewards at senior level have damaged the BBC's reputation leading to the false impression, exploited by some sections of the media,  that all BBC staff are feather-bedded.   

"The reality is that the majority of us are only earning £25-35K; after a full career at the BBC some of us would be in line to earn a pension of £21K. That figure would be cut to £12K a year under the current proposals.

"It is not fair, or truthful, to group ordinary staff with senior management and to label our pension arrangements as 'gold-plated'. This misinformation corrupts the public's understanding of the situation.

"Staff earnings in retirement are being seriously compromised by the BBC and we have to address this," said one BBC member of staff. 

Union meetings week beginning 20 September will take place in London's Television Centre, Millbank, Media Village, Broadcasting House and Bush House and also in Bristol, Caversham, Leeds, Hull, Cardiff and Belfast.

Week beginning 27 September, union members and staff will come together in Birmingham, Tunbridge Wells, Manchester, Plymouth, Southampton, Nottingham, Radio Stoke, Radio Shropshire and Glasgow.

The unions are also encouraging their members to take part in BBC briefings scheduled during the next fortnight.

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