Long pay offer in BBC Resources Ltd.

Union negotiators have been cleared to continue talks on a 20-month pay offer.

A meeting of BECTU's BBC Divisional Committee, which has final say on all pay negotiations affecting BBC members, has voted to carry on discussing an offer for a two-stage 20-month pay deal with Resources Limited.

The offer, proposed by the subsidiary company in its first year of independent pay bargaining, would consist of a 2.5% increase in August 2001, followed by a further 2.5% rise in April 2002.

After that, there would be no pay negotiations in Resources Limited until 2003, when staff would receive an increase on April 1 - a date which would become the new pay anniversary for the company.

BECTU's negotiating team is now free to proceed with pay talks in BBC Resources Limited and, if possible, will be able to reach an agreement which includes the change of pay anniversary from August to April.

Any change in the subsidiary company's pay bargaining calendar could affect annual pay talks elsewhere in the BBC. Traditionally, the technical and support staff in Resources Limited, now numbering roughly 1,200, have been covered by joint pay negotiations alongside almost 20,000 other BBC staff, with increases paid every August.

The decision of Resources Limited to follow an older BBC subsidiary, Worldwide Limited, into separate pay talks, could be followed by BBC Technology Limited, a new company covering IT and Broadcast Technology staff which was set up last year.

Technology Limited has warned that it could split from the BBC's annual pay talks in 2002, threatening further fragmentation of the union's central bargaining arrangements at the Corporation.

The 20-month pay offer from BBC Resources Limited came in response to a union demand for an increase equal to the inflation rate (RPI), plus a flat-rate rise of £1,000 for every member of staff.

Union negotiators asked the company to improve the first-stage offer of 2.5% plus a guaranteed minimum rise of £400, in line with the response given to central BBC management when they tabled an identical offer on June 14.

Also in the claim were demands for better night working payments, and the renewal of current time-limited enhancements on pensions and resettlement rights for staff facing redundancy. All elements of the Resources Limited claim were identical to the claim submitted on behalf of union members elsewhere in the BBC last month.

When Resources Limited replied to the pay claim on June 18, company representatives turned down the call for better night payments, arguing that night-working was not "central" to its activities.

However, the company agreed to extend the current agreement on a 5 or 6 week resettlement period for redundant staff until April 1 2002, and accepted that any renewal of special pension arrangements adopted by the BBC would apply to staff employed by Resources Limited. [In fact the short-term arrangements for enhanced pensions for redundant staff leaving after the age of 45 had already been renewed by BBC pension trustees for one year.]

Management also offered to enter long-term negotiations with BECTU on introducing a new pay system that would:

  • Link employee pay to company performance
  • Reward, retain, and attract key skills and talent
  • Control paybill costs and ensure an appropriate level of variable cost

The move was intended to head off a company-wide boycott of appraisals which the union had threatened following the collapse of national-level BBC talks on performance pay.

At the June 18 pay meeting, Resources Limited tabled plans for a radical overhaul of performance pay in the company, which would be implemented in parallel with the proposed talks on a new pay system.

According to the plan, the company would limit performance pay to "management" grades, and for the rest of the workforce would restore a system of bonuses for exceptional performance, coupled with a possible "business-wide bonus" for all staff.

The changes would not however be in place by this August, when performance pay awards are due to be made, and some Resources Limited staff would consequently receive appraisal-linked increases. BECTU has decided to cancel the planned ballot of members in Resources Limited over performance pay to allow further exploration of the company's plans to overhaul the system.

Further pay negotiations are scheduled for the BBC on June 22, and BBC Resources Limited on June 26. Members in BBC Worldwide Limited are already voting on a 2.5% pay offer in a ballot which closes on June 29.

21 June 2001