the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

27 September 2010

With less than a week to go before planned strike action at the BBC over pensions, BECTU publishes new guidance for its members and BBC staff.

The action is set to start on 5 October, continuing on 6, 19, and 20 October. Briefings by union officials (dates here) and BBC management continue throughout this week ahead of further talks between officials and management on Friday 1 October. Joint union reps will meet again that afternoon.

Latest Q&As

Set out below are the latest key questions and answers to assist BECTU members and reps during this period. Contact us with any additional questions or queries.

Q: When does the action begin?

A: In the absence of a significant new offer from the BBC, strike action will begin at 00.01 on 5 October and end at 23.59 on 6 October.

Q: Do I have to tell my manager that I will be taking strike action?

A: No, you are not obliged to tell your manager. If asked, simply say you do not wish to answer that question. If you're feeling pressured please tell your local rep.

Q: Will I be required to take strike action if I am working away from home on location and/or abroad (eg Commonwealth Games)?

A: Yes, all members working for the BBC, BBC Studios & Post Production Ltd and BBC Worldwide Ltd will be expected to take strike action.

Q: If I am working away/abroad and I take strike action what about my hotel bills?

A: Technically the employer would not have to pay for hotel bills whilst you are on strike. However, for staff working overseas, the BBC guidelines state that given the practicalities of recovering the money where block bookings are made up front, the BBC may not seek to recover hotel expenses in those circumstances.

Q: What happens if I am travelling back from location/OB on the first day of action?

A: You should complete your journey home but do not undertake any work duties for the duration of the strike days.

Q: Can non-members take part in strike action?

A: Yes but they will not get the protection of union membership. Do encourage non-members to join their union.  BECTU joining info here.

Q: Do I have to co-operate in strike action contingency planning?

A: In the run-up to a strike you must carry out your normal duties. We suggest that you question any instruction by managers to take on work that you consider unreasonable and that you would not normally do. 

If the work is within the scope and remit of your job description then to refuse to attend a meeting could be deemed as a failure to obey a reasonable request. In any case, you should not be given an unreasonable or unsafe workload or tasks outside your area of competency.  If you feel that you are being asked to do work in excess of normal requirements then you should raise this with your line manager in the first instance. If you are being pressured contact your local rep immediately.

Q: Can the BBC change my working pattern ahead of the scheduled strike days?

A: Yes, if you receive UPA / Flexibility Allowance and the changes are in line with the agreed guidelines.

Q: I do not work in a broadcast critical role, if I go on strike can I refuse to make up the backlog in work when I go back to work?

A: When you return to work you should continue to work as normal. If you are required to make up the backlog by working additional hours then you should ask for overtime/paid time off.

Q: I am being asked to pre-record or stack programmes that would have been normally broadcast on the day, can I refuse to do this?

A: Yes, you should refuse to do any work on pre-recording/stacking for programmes that was scheduled to have been done on one of the strike days.

Q: Are there any exemptions from taking strike action?

A: No, there are no exemptions.

Q: What about the position of members about to take maternity leave?

A: Several reps have asked about the position of pregnant members whose maternity pay is set by earnings  preceding the start of maternity leave. The BBC has confirmed, if the strikes go ahead, that pay deductions following the strikes will not affect the calculation of maternity pay. Pregnant members are encouraged to support the strike. 

Q: I cannot go on strike because I am a manager/there is a no-strike clause in my contract.

A: Neither statement is true.

Everyone has the right to withdraw their labour where a legal ballot has been conducted, as is the case here. If anyone says your contract prevents you from striking please ask them for a copy of this much-rumoured but never-seen document. Our lawyers would LOVE to see a copy. Your managers may pull tricks like these to try to stop you striking; do not fall for this.

Q: What happens in a strike?

A: If the strike starts outside normal working hours (e.g. midnight) you do not have to come into work the next morning.  If the strike starts in the middle of a work period, we all walk out together.  We establish a picket line at the building entrance and politely ask people not to enter whilst explaining what the dispute is about. Frequently people respond positively to this request and agree not to cross the picket line.

Q: What about freelances?

 A: We ask freelances not to carry out duties normally carried out by striking workers but we do not expect them to jeopardise their contracts. We have asked freelance members not to accept bookings on strike days. 

NB Fixed term contract workers are employees and not freelances.

More questions?

"Contact us if you have any more questions; rest assured, if you have a question it will be one shared by someone else," said Helen Ryan, BECTU's BBC supervisory official.   

Q&As from 28 July  and 7 July.

More campaign related articles here


Updated 19.00, 27/9 to include picket line guidelines for reps.

Updated 28/9 to clarify position of pregnant members.