Ballot on new BBC Resources offer

Members in BBC Resources London Operations are voting on revised reorganisation proposals from management.

Ballot papers were due to be sent early this week (w/b 08.01.01) to home addresses of members in London TV Studios, Post-Production and Graphics, and Radio and TV OBs.

In spite of improvements in the original £12m savings package, which lawyers advised were significant enough to require a ballot, the union is recommending members to vote against the new proposals.

Among the improvements in the package are the reinstatement of extra payments and voluntarism for long days - although the trigger time is now 13 hours instead of 12 - and the scrapping of plans to force staff to travel to duties within 15 miles of Television Centre in their own time and at their own expense.

Read offer from management

The union believes, however, that the revised proposals are still not good enough to secure an agreement on the reorganisation, although negotiators have admitted that the gap between the two sides is smaller than at any time in almost six months of union/management talks.

Read union response to offer

Management's first attempt to win agreement on a reorganisation which aimed to cut £6m from the wage bill through job cuts and the introduction of new conditions of service, led to a one-day strike on December 2 2000.

In a renewed round of discussions in the run-up to Christmas, management indicated that they were willing to make concessions on a number of less controversial issues, and promised to continue negotiations in January.

London Operations also promised to table new proposals in January on long days/short breaks, and travel payments, both of which had proved to be major stumbling blocks. A threat of the changes being forced through on January 1 without agreement was lifted by management, and the union responded by postponing its plan to begin a work-to-rule that day.

On January 3, new proposals were sent to the union, with a warning that management intended to impose the changes on February 1. Under current UK labour laws any "significant" new offer from an employer made during an industrial dispute must be put to a vote of members, to ensure that any subsequent industrial action remains legal.

Advice from lawyers suggested that a straight rejection of the revised package without a ballot of members would prevent the union from proceeding with a work-to-rule if management imposed the new conditions on February 1. The ballot closes on January 26.

Key issues which negotiators believe still stand in the way of an agreement are the 13-hour definition of a long day, interpretation of the BBC's national formula for "excess travel" claims, which will be applied in London Ops instead of the 15 mile radius proposal, and the unresolved question of more than 50 compulsory redundancies, most of them in Studio Management.

In addition, there is no guarantee at present that continued negotiations on issues like acting pay and late night/early morning transport will conclude with agreement. However, the union hopes that the outcome of these discussions will be known by the time the ballot closes.

Letter from union to BBC Resources management in reply to revised offer on London Operations' reorganisation

5th January 2001

Mr Rob Murdoch
Director, Human Resources
BBC Resources

Dear Rob,


Thank you for your letter of 3rd January.

I am writing to confirm that we will be putting this offer out to a ballot of our members. The ballot will commence no later than 11th January and will close on 26th January.

This is not an issue about which we feel we can be neutral, and as I have indicated to you, we believe that even though your offer is an improvement on the previous offer it still amounts to a significant deterioration in terms and conditions for our members. We therefore feel we have no alternative but to recommend rejection.

As I have already mentioned, I believe that we are closer to agreement now than we have been before, and I would again respectfully suggest that the management revisit the issue of long day working, specifically your intention of providing no compensation for days in excess of 12.

I will communicate the result of the ballot to you on 26th January.

Yours sincerely,

Assistant General Secretary

Letter from BBC Resources management outlining their revised offer for the reorganisation of London Operations.

Dear Gerry [Morrissey],

3rd January 2001

London Operations Dispute

I am writing following our formal meeting on 15th December 2000, the subsequent local level meeting on 18th December 2000, and our informal discussion on 22nd December 2000, to confirm the position which we have reached. It is a position which reflects considerable movement on management's part from that which pertained prior to the industrial action ballot which you conducted last November, and it is my understanding on the basis of our discussion on 22nd December 2000 that BECTU will now re-ballot. I confirm that the proposed changes in London Operations will not be introduced before 1st February 2001 in order to allow time for a further ballot to take place. I must also repeat that the changes which we are prepared to make following our discussions are intended to achieve a resolution of the dispute, and are therefore conditional on reaching agreement. You have indicated that no further industrial action will be taken in the meantime.

In setting out the position we have reached, and the changes we are prepared to make, I want to distinguish between those important but perhaps slightly less significant issues which are being discussed and clarified in the further local discussions, and the smaller number of fundamentally more significant issues.

I would like to confirm our revised proposals on those major items first:

  1. Travel to location or place of work away from normal base
    In the light of your representations to us we propose to apply the "excess" formula both to travel costs and travel time which already applies in some areas of London Operations. Staff will be able to claim travel costs and travel time which are over and above those which would apply in respect of their normal home to base journeys. This is a considerable move from the original plan to allow no travel costs or time within a 15 mile radius of Television Centre or the Manchester base.

  2. "Long Day" Arrangements
    We are prepared to agree that requirements for scheduled duty periods of more than 13 hours should be met on a voluntary basis, and that any hours worked over 13 by Hours staff should attract an additional payment of IT . This again reflects considerable movement from the original position where we did not accept that staff could have the right to refuse to work long days.

  3. ERR and 'Acting'
    We have agreed in principle to increase the number of supervisory level positions in those areas most affected in order to reduce the requirement for repeated short term acting. Further work is being done to identify what the various specific numbers of additional higher level jobs should be, and we shall discuss this further with you locally. We would hope that this move will substantially address the degree of concern which has been expressed on this particular point.

  4. OB Site Supervisors
    We are prepared to leave this group of staff on Hours Conditions of Service, and not to transfer them to Days as originally intended.

  5. Studio Management
    As we explained at our meeting on 15th December 2000, Michele Romaine (Director of Production) is giving further consideration to how the BBC might best secure its requirement for this work. I know that she is keen to have direct input from BECTU on this. From the London Operations perspective, if in the end the staff concerned cannot be retained within the BBC we shall offer as much help and assistance regarding freelance or' Agency' working as we can.

Moving on to the list of items which has been further discussed locally this covered;

  1. UPA I: Sickness Absence
    UPA I staff who are absent because of sickness on a Public Holiday will be credited with their scheduled hours rather than the 8 hours previously proposed.

  2. Meal Break Arrangements
    Where there are current arrangements to facilitate the taking of meal breaks, such as those in Post Production, they will continue.

  3. More than 6 consecutive days
    We have agreed that where schedules exceptionally require more than six consecutive days of working, allocators will identify this in advance to the staff concerned, and will take account of individual concerns wherever possible.

  4. Notification of changes to schedules
    We shall re-draft the Conditions of Service document to set out more clearly the processes which we intend to use to deal more effectively with changes. We do believe - with proper safeguards - that this should be seen as a shared responsibility.

  5. Late Night/Early Morning Transport
    Whilst the BBC-wide 'windows' will apply, managers will be able to exercise some discretion in exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, the general LN/ EM provisions will apply to all staff.

  6. Technical Assistant Role and Training
    Management will consider the concerns expressed by BECTU during the local meeting on 18th December 2000.

It is my understanding that the discussions on items (a) to (f) above were constructive and that significant progress was made. There appears to be no reason why these items, in themselves, should remain in dispute.

Finally, I would like to remind you of the imperative which lay behind the set of proposals originally tabled. In order to hold and hopefully increase its share of internal BBC business, and to increase its external business, London Operations has no option but to improve its efficiency and achieve the business targets set for it. The fact that we are prepared to amend the initial proposals in the interests of achieving agreement and avoiding further damaging industrial action does not shift that underlying requirement -although it will make it more difficult to deliver.

I would be grateful if you would confirm as soon as possible that you will be putting these revised proposals to a further ballot of the membership concerned.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Murdoch
(Human Resources Director
BBC Resources)

8 January 2001