BBC pay ballot delayed

BECTU has postponed the result of this year's BBC pay ballot until June 24.

Originally scheduled to close today, June 10, the postal ballot will now be announced on the same day as the National Union of Journalists counts its vote on the BBC's two-year pay offer.

Members of BECTU affected by the move, excluding those in subsidiaries Resources Ltd, Worldwide Ltd, and Technology Ltd, were notified about the postponement last week.

Read letter to members

The BECTU date was moved to coincide with the NUJ timetable as a solidarity gesture after the journalists began their ballot late due to internal discussions over the recommendation that would be made to members.

NUJ chapel representatives initially called for their union to urge rejection of the pay offer because the deal - 2.8% this year, and minimum of RPI in 2003 - was linked to possible changes in Unpredictability Allowances (UPAs) which journalists fear could hit their earnings.

However, after a number of internal meetings, the NUJ voted to follow BECTU and electricians' union Amicus by running a neutral ballot, warning members that the offer was "the best that could be achieved through negotiation". This was in line with an agreement reached at the end of accelerated one-day pay talks on May 3, where the BBC was willing to put its final offer on the table only in return for a commitment that the unions would not campaign against it.

Some areas of BECTU membership would also be affected by any reduction in UPA payments, but the union has emphasised that, under the terms of the pay offer, unions are only obliged to enter discussions about changes, and have not agreed anything else in advance.

Since the May 3 pay meeting, the BBC has clarified its position on UPAs by stating that, whatever the outcome of the talks, it intends to continue paying a reward for unpredictable working, and is committed to compensation for any staff whose entitlement to payments ends up being altered.

Letter sent to BECTU members voting in BBC pay ballot.

5 June 2002

TO: BECTU MEMBERS IN BBC AND
BBC BROADCAST LTD

Dear Colleague,

BBC PAY OFFER 2002: UPDATE

I am writing to update you on developments since BECTU issued ballot papers on 13th May. This letter will explain what has happened in the last few weeks and also clarify one or two aspects of the offer. It should be read in conjunction with my earlier letter which went out with the ballot paper.

UPDATE

Ballot papers were issued to BECTU members on a timetable agreed with the NUJ. They then decided not to ballot immediately but to refer the offer to their Mothers & Fathers of Chapel which resolved that the NUJ must recommend rejection of the offer. The joint unions had agreed with the BBC on May 3rd that in return for increasing the offer from 2.3% to 2.8% this year, both unions would ballot our members with a neutral recommendation. The decision by the NUJ to recommend rejection threatened to overturn the whole pay offer. In order to try and find common ground with the NUJ the BBC Divisional Committee agreed to meet with the NUJ's Mothers and Fathers of Chapels. Following two and half hours of discussion with BECTU the NUJ then went on to consider its position separately and finally decided to reverse the earlier decision and make no recommendation in the ballot. BECTU welcomes this move since now both unions are balloting on the same basis with a neutral recommendation rather than one union urging their members to reject.

CLARIFICATION

As I said in my letter accompanying the ballot paper, the offer is a complex one and some members have been in touch with questions particularly about the proposed talks on Unpredictability Allowances (UPAs). The first point to make is that if this pay deal is accepted it does not mean that the unions have accepted that UPAs will go and members will lose money. BECTU has thousands of members who receive UPA1 and UPA2 and we would never agree to such a proposal nor send it out to ballot with a neutral recommendation. If the pay deal is accepted then the joint unions will begin talks with the BBC on their proposal to revise the definitions (not remove them) in the light of changes in the workplace since they were first introduced in 1991. The worst that can then happen, if we do not like their proposals about what will replace UPAs, is that the BBC cannot change anything about UPAs until August 1st 2004.

Some people even seem to believe that if we refuse to talk about UPAs as part of this pay deal the BBC will be unable to talk about them at all. On the contrary, if it is rejected then the BBC are free to write to the unions giving them three months notice of termination of the UPAs and if they did so then the first thing we would do would be to ask for a meeting to discuss the proposal!

BECTU is committed to defending the interests of all our members and that includes those receiving UPAs. In order to try and protect your interests we asked the BBC to state that this proposal was not a money saving exercise which they did. We asked the BBC to agree in advance to discuss cushioning or consolidation which they did. We asked the BBC to leave the UPAs as they are until August 2004 if we did not agree with their proposals to change them which they did. We asked the BBC to include in the discussions the issue of anti-social hours not just unpredictable scheduling which they did. This last point is an area were our members have had concerns for many years and with the changed attitudes to family friendly policies and the work-life balance we believe that the BBC needs to address these points in any talks about revising UPAs. It is not enough for the BBC to talk about paying people appropriately for unpredictable working, Staff must also be paid appropriately for working in the early hours of the morning, late at night, at weekends and bank holidays. The BBC have accepted that these issues must form part of the discussions. They have also said that they would be prepared to consider the possibility of allowing people to opt out of unpredictable working.

It is hard to predict how these talks will turn out, but tactically it seems wiser to have the talks and see what the BBC is proposing and then, if talks break down be prepared to take industrial action at that point. Rather than embark on industrial action now to stop the BBC from talking to us about UPAs. Any proposals made by the BBC will need to win the support of more than 9700 staff (nearly all union members) who currently receive a UPA.

One other area of the offer which has caused some confusion is the appraisal boycott. The BBC has made it a condition of acceptance that the boycott be ended so that talks can take place without either side being under pressure. If there is a yes vote then we would suspend the boycott, it remains in place until then, but if the talks breakdown it could be re-instated.

I hope that this letter has clarified the proposal and as I have said BECTU is not making any recommendation in the ballot. What is on offer has good points with the rate for the job and the increases for the lower paid and bad points with the linking of the end of the appraisal boycott and the talks on revising UPAs. The headline increase of 2.8% is ahead of inflation but hardly spectacular. However, the BBC's response to what has happened since May 3rd makes it even clearer that this offer is the best that can be achieved through negotiation, which means that if it is rejected we will be asking you to vote "YES" in a ballot for industrial action to try and improve the offer.

YOUR VIEWS ARE IMPORTANT PLEASE VOTE

The BECTU ballot has now been extended to close on the same day as the NUJ ballot. It is more important than ever that you vote since it is up to you to decide what happens next. If you have received a ballot paper but not returned it please find it, vote and return it. If you have not had a ballot paper please can you contact Lesley Miles at BECTU Head Office on 020 7437 8506 or Lmiles@BECTU.org.uk. Please note the ballot has been extended to close on the same day as the NUJ which is now: 12 NOON ON MONDAY 24TH JUNE 2002.

Further details can be found on the BECTU website at www.bectu.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

LUKE CRAWLEY
Supervisory Official

10 June 2002