New BBC expenses rules agreed

BECTU members have voted to accept revised expenses rules in a postal ballot.

The ballot result, announced today May 4, revealed that more than 90% of BBC members who participated had voted in favour of the Corporation's second attempt to overhaul its expenses structure in less than six weeks.

An earlier effort to introduce changes led to a BBC-wide work-to-rule after new expenses regulations were imposed without agreement at the beginning of February.

After several weeks of administrative chaos, the BBC backed down in early April, and announced that many of the most controversial restrictions on expenses would be reversed. BECTU, the only BBC union which had organised official industrial action against the unpopular February rules. recommended that members should accept the compromise announced in April when they received their ballot papers.

However, the union is still pressing for talks on the detail of the revised expenses regulations. In particular, there are concerns about the issuing of personal charge cards to staff who are likely to spend money on behalf of the BBC, and the abolition of scale rate payments for meals and hotels is still causing difficulties in some areas.

Staff working for BBC Worldwide Ltd and BBC Resources Ltd did not take part in the ballot since their expenses are no longer governed by the BBC's central rules.

Resources Ltd did impose the flawed Corporation-wide expenses policy on its staff in February, but has now opted out. In the middle of April, the company reverted to its pre-February rules, with the exception of travel payments, where a punitive "excess mileage" formula is being applied.

The Resources Ltd rule on travel payments is one of the issues which underlies the current work-to-rule in London Operations, the company's largest department.

BECTU now plans to inform the BBC about the outcome of the ballot, and will emphasise the need for any future changes to expenses to go through a formal process of negotiation.

In the run-up to the February changes, BBC management claimed expenses were not a negotiable issue. Union officials believe that the Corporation's embarrassing volte-face would not have been necessary if full negotiations had taken place.

In the postal ballot, 984 members (90.5%) voted in favour of the compromise expenses rules, with 103 against. 3944 papers were issued, giving a participation rate of 27.5%.

Text of letter to BBC management

Ms Gillian Alford
Employee Relations
BBC, Broadcasting House

4th May 2001

Dear Gillian,


I am writing to inform you of the result of the ballot of BECTU members in the BBC on the latest proposals on Recoverable Expenditure. This is:

YES 984 (90.5%)
NO 109 (9.5%)

As you can see from this result, the proposals have been overwhelmingly accepted.

I would like to make the point that this dispute has demonstrated very clearly the problems that arise when the BBC bypasses the normal channels of industrial relations and announces a new policy without consulting with the recognised trade unions under the Procedure Agreement. In this particular case it has resulted in a dispute which damaged morale by forcing a punitive regime upon Resource staff and programme makers alike. It is worth making the point that all of the problems raised at the Forum, which apparently caused Greg Dyke to change his mind, had been previously raised by the trade unions at two meetings outside of the procedure before the dispute started.

For the future, I hope that this kind of situation does not arise again, and that the BBC treats Recoverable Expenditure in the same way as all other terms and conditions of staff employed by the Corporation, that is to say, it is covered by the Procedure Agreement and will be discussed and negotiated with the recognised trade unions.

There is a further outstanding issue concerning the corporate charge card which the BBC issues to staff. I believe it would be helpful to discuss this at the next NJC on 22nd May.

Yours sincerely,

Supervisory Official

4 May 2001