Vote for action on BBC expenses

More than four fifths of BECTU members support industrial action against new BBC expenses rules.

In a ballot of over 6,000 members affected by the controversial change in expenses payments, 85% of participants voted for a work-to-rule, while 60% supported full-blown strike action. The ballot closed yesterday, February 14.

Ballot results
Read press release

BECTU is now planning to give the BBC seven days notice of industrial action which is likely to include an instruction for members to insist on at least one hour for lunch breaks away from base.

Other measures which may feature in the work-to-rule are a ban on the use of private cars for BBC business, and an instruction for members to take meals at their home base if they are on locations less than five miles away.

The industrial action ballot came after the BBC imposed new expenses rules without agreement on February 1. Although the Corporation had amended its original proposals for a new BBC-wide expenses regime after union protests, the rules introduced in February still left many staff out of pocket.

Allowances for lunches away from home base were scrapped, except where there was an "overriding operational need", claims for evening meals could be made only when staff had worked more than 12 hours away from base, and a £55 cap was imposed on hotel claims. No meals can now be claimed within 5 miles of base.

In addition, areas of the BBC which have traditionally worked on a system of fixed scale rates for meals and overnights were forced to move to "capped actuality" payments, even on occasions when this was inappropriate.

Details of the planned work-to-rule are expected to be sent to members in time for the action to start in the last week of February.

Full ballot results are listed below - BBC Worldwide Ltd and the BBC's orchestras were not included in the ballot because they are planning to continue with their current arrangements, despite the Corporation's claim that the February changes were meant to harmonise expenses rules across the organisation.

BBC Resources Limited
Papers issued:1925 Papers returned:797 Papers spoilt:4
Strike action? YES 519 65%
NO 274 35%
Action short of strike? YES 685 86%
NO 108 14%
Rest of BBC
Papers issued:4172 Papers returned:1215 Papers spoilt:16/7
Strike action? YES 685 57%
NO 514 43%
Action short of strike? YES 1007 83%
NO 201 17%
TOTAL for BBC membership
Papers issued:6097 Papers returned:1992/2001
Strike action? YES 1204 60%
NO 788 40%
Action short of strike? YES 1692 85%
NO 309 15%

Press information
Attention of broadcast, arts and entertainments plus labour, industrial correspondents

Thursday 15 February 2001

Without embargo

BBC staff vote for action over penny pinching

Workers at the BBC have voted by over 80 per cent for industrial action over a new scheme by their employers to cut expenses. In a separate ballots for strike action majorities of 57.1 per cent and 65.4 per cent were returned.

BBC bosses planned to impose a new cost-cutting regime which would mean that unless staff worked more than five miles away from base for more than five hours they would be unable to claim for travel and meals unless their manager authorised the expenditure. Travel and duty allowances for a second meal would become payable only after 12 hours at work.

And the employers want to cap hotel expenditure at £55 per night. In a final twist of the knife the starvation rates of £6 for the first meal are taxable.

The industrial action could involve members

  • returning to base for meal breaks
  • refusing to work additional hours.
  • refusing to use their own vehicles
  • refusing communication during off duty periods.

Union members involved in the action plan to take the BBC at their word when they claim it is possible to secure overnight accommodation for £55 per night by letting the employers find the hotel rooms.

BECTU supervisory official Luke Crawley said "No one should be out of pocket just for doing their job. Behind this bureaucratic nightmare with 27 different formulae for recoverable expenditure in the BBC lies a misconceived attempt by the employer to make their employees carry the costs of working away from base."


Information for editors
Two ballots were conducted one among BBC staff and one among BBC Resources staff. In both ballots more than 80 per cent voted for industrial action short of a strike. In the BBC Resources area where the issue is most sharply felt the ballot result for strike action was 78 per cent to 22 per cent. In the other constituency the result was narrower with 55 per cent in favour of strike action.

Contact: BECTU press officer Nick Wright on 020 7437 8506 mobile 0976 943514. Gerry Morrissey on 020 7437 8506 or mobile 07850 317866

15 February 2001