BBC talks open with 2.5% pay offer

Annual pay talks at the BBC have been adjourned after unions called for a better offer.

Management tabled an offer of a 2.5% pay increase at a meeting on June 14, but were told that union negotiators would not be willing to present it to members unless there were significant improvements in the proposal.

The 2.5% increase in basic pay and all related payments was offered to BECTU, NUJ, and AEEU, together with a management proposal for a new payment of £6 per turn for staff who work night duties which span the hours of midnight to 0600.

Unions had called for an increase equal to the rate of inflation plus £1,000 for each member of staff when the annual pay claim was presented to management on May 23.

For the first time in several years the BBC's income was growing in real terms, said the unions when the claim was submitted. Representatives at the May 23 meeting went on to argue that the Corporation was able to put a generous offer on the table thanks to the government's "RPI-plus" formula for licence income.

However, the June 14 meeting began with a presentation from members of the BBC's Finance Division highlighting the gap between projected income from the licence fee, and the cash needed to fund extra digital services over the next five years.

According to the management, this year's pay offer, due to be paid to staff employed by the BBC and BBC Technology Ltd from August 1, would have to be "fair, justifiable, and affordable".

During the June 14 negotiations, an opening offer of 2.3% was increased to 2.5%, with a guaranteed minimum rise of £400 per person. The joint union claim for a significant improvement in night payments was met by a proposal for a flat-rate of £6 for staff working a full night turn.

Pay talks were adjourned when the unions warned that the 2.5% offer fell short of the going rate among public and private employers for pay settlements.

Government figures published immediately before the June 14 meeting indicated that public sector wages were increasing by 4.3% a year, and negotiators said that the BBC should follow other publicly-funded employers with a wage increase that would make up for many years of pay restraint.

Although the unions rejected the management's opening offer on basic pay and night payments, other parts of the original pay claim were met by concessions from the BBC.

At the June 14 meeting, management offered to continue with the current 5 or 6 month resettlement period for redundant staff for another year, until the end of July 2002.

The BBC also agreed to open talks on "work/life balance", provided terms of reference were tightly-defined, and reported that the preferential formula for discounted pensions would be extended until the end of March 2002.

At the next scheduled negotiating meeting on June 22, the BBC is due to respond to the unions' demand that the pay offer should include a percentage increase plus a flat-rate payment for everyone, instead of the "minimum rise" in the BBC's first proposal.

Unions have also asked for the offer on nights payments to be expressed as an increase in hourly payments, rather than a single £6 premium for working a full night shift.

Elsewhere in the BBC, pay talks are already underway in Worldwide Ltd, while subsidiary company Resources Limited is due to present a pay offer to BECTU on June 18.

15 June 2001