BBC Resources facing legal action

Members in London Operations are planning breach of contract cases against the BBC.

BECTU's lawyers have advised that an enforced change in terms and conditions, which prompted a work-to-rule in March, may be open to challenge in the County Court.

Staff were given only one month's notice of the change by London Operations, part of BBC Resources Limited. Solicitors say that this was significantly less than the three months' that they were entitled to, and believe that staff contracts were breached as a result.

Letters have been sent to all members in TV Studios, Post-Production and Outside Broadcasts, asking for volunteers to become test cases.

Read letter

The change in terms and conditions, imposed on March 3 without agreement, meant an end to many forms of premium and extra payments to staff. Members have reported significant cuts in pay for travel time, days in excess of 12 hours, and "acting up" to cover for absent superiors.

At present, union members in London Operations are refusing to undertake duties which previously earned extra rewards, and the work-to-rule includes a bans on acting, and on days in excess of 12 hours, as well as sanctions against changes in travel payments.

Although the changes in travel arrangements have affected mileage claims that staff can make when working away from base, they are separate from a work-to-rule being run nationally in protest at new expenses rules across the BBC.

To win cases at the County Court, members have only to prove that their contracts were changed without agreement, and do not have to demonstrate any actual loss of income.

Management have so far proposed to compromise on just one issue in the list of changes that caused the work-to-rule. Earlier this month, a new proposal was tabled for staff to be given long-term acting payments if they were required to fill in senior posts on a medium/long term basis.

However, the new offer did not reinstate ad hoc daily acting payments, and left many other issues unresolved. The union warned that it was unlikely to end the work-to-rule, even if members were prepared to accept the peace offer on acting pay.

Letter to members in London Operations

6th April 2001


Dear Colleagues,

When I last wrote to you I told you that we were investigating the possibility of taking legal action against BBC Resources Ltd following the imposition of the new contract on March 5th. I can now tell you that after discussing the issue with Stephen Cavalier of Thompsons we have established the best way of doing this is to take an action in the County Court for breach of contract.

We require two types of evidence: firstly, a paper trail of minutes of meetings and management newsletters which establish exactly what system was in place before 5th March. The purpose of this is to demonstrate to the court that BBC Resources Ltd were making payments to staff where certain conditions applied. We also will be making use of minutes of recent meetings which show that Resources Ltd knew they were changing the terms and conditions of staff. Secondly, any evidence from individuals who have copies of timesheets showing travel time, or additional hours worked over 12 and under 10, any paperwork associated with ERR, for example letters from the management to an individual indicating ERR would be paid, payslips clearly identifying ERR payments, and the letter to staff giving one month's notice.

It would be helpful if individuals who have copies of their time sheets, salary slips, relevant letters to them from management, could contact their branch officers. In TV Studios that would be Tony Scott, in Post Production, Henry Gibson, in TV OBs speak to Tony Lennon and in Radio OBs speak to Brian Mack. We are looking for a number of specimen cases under the heading to Travel Time, ERR and Working Time. It would be ideal to have examples of each from all three areas, but the important point to have solid cases with plenty of evidence. We would like to progress this issue as quickly as possible so if you think you could be a case please get in touch as soon as possible.

We were considering taking BBC Resources Ltd to an Employment Tribunal claiming an unlawful deduction of wages because payments were not being made as a result of the changes in terms and conditions. One of the difficulties in doing this was the need to demonstrate an actual loss of earnings. We would have to show, for instance, that someone had worked more than 12 hours and not received the additional sum of money for the 13th hour, or that they had not been credited with the travelling time when going to a location. Obviously since the industrial action consists of refusing to work more than 12 hours, and going to base not to the location, this would have been very difficult to do. The legal advice is that an action in the County Court would be a more rational course of action because we only have to demonstrate a breach of contract, not an actual loss.

If we can show that the travel times, working time arrangements and ERR are contractual we should be able to show that the BBC has acted in breach of contract and obtain a declaration that the contractual entitlements remain. If the BBC then sought to take further action to remove the entitlements, we would advise you of your rights at that time.

All this is against a backdrop of the continuing industrial action in London Ops which is causing the management very serious problems, both in actually getting enough staff to crew and often double crew events, as well as having to pay out significant sums of money to hire in freelance effort. All this is at a quiet time of year, in particular the OB season has not really begun.

In addition to the action already in effect, the strike committee is considering the possibility of taking further strike action. However, as you will be aware, most of those being made redundant were expected to leave on 31st March and it is expected that BBC Resources Ltd will face serious difficulties in scheduling sufficient staff to cover the normal workload. When, or perhaps if, things settle down later on in April it may be a suitable time to take strike action to cause the maximum disruption.

If any member has experienced an actual loss since the industrial action has started on 5th March then they should contact BECTU Head Office for further advice.

Yours sincerely,


Supervisory Official

9 April 2001