BBC campaign reloaded

BECTU's campaign seeking freelance union recognition at the BBC has been relaunched.

Following the BBC's decision to issue a rate card for freelances working in the Factual & Learning (F&L) department, June 2006 saw the launch of BECTU's freelance recognition campaign.

The previous petition issued must no longer be used, and those who have signed these forms should complete the new forms

The campaign centres on allowing BECTU to negotiate pay, working hours and holidays (among other things) on behalf of freelances working across the BBC and BBC Resources.

The union held nationwide meetings to get freelances behind the campaign and it received an overwhelming response to the recognition petition, which freelances were asked to sign and return. Since then forms have flooded into head office.

Moving goalposts

BECTU has been recognised for years by the BBC on behalf of staff working there. If the BBC does not give BECTU voluntary recognition on behalf of freelances, the union will push for statutory recognition (ie using legal means to win the case).

However, since launching the campaign, the BBC has announced a major reorganisation of its departments.

This has huge implications for BECTU's petition campaign because it moves the legal goalposts the union has been working towards and potentially renders all existing signed petitions ineffective.

The union has taken legal advice on the issue, the result of which means that BECTU has decided to relaunch the campaign.

Assistant General Secretary Martin Spence said: "It is imperative that if we go for recognition we do it right the first time. The recognition successes we have enjoyed at the BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Scotland have been the direct result of precise documentation and the wording on the petitions has to be watertight."

At the same time as relaunching the campaign, BECTU has taken the opportunity to make it clear that there are two potential bargaining units: the BBC and BBC Resources, thus two separate petition forms.

In both cases BECTU seeks recognition for 'freelance workers' on Schedule D contracts and for 'casual employees' on short-term PAYE contracts.

So, for those working at the BBC on a freelance or casual contract, there is a BBC petition [30k pdf].

For those at BBC Resources on a freelance or casual contract, there is a Resources petition [25k pdf].

If freelancers have worked for both areas they need to fill in both petitions. Any grade of freelance can fill in the forms as long as they have worked for either employer in the last three years.

The previous petition issued must no longer be used, and those who have signed these forms should complete the new forms.

Martin Spence points out: "The level of union membership is crucial if BECTU is to win recognition, so recruitment must go hand in hand with the petition. BBC staff reps will be actively promoting the petition in key sites and we need other freelances to help with this at their places of work."

Awareness is working

Some positive news filtering through to BECTU recently is that members working in F&L report they have successfully defended their rates, despite the BBC's aim of reducing them. This they say is a direct result of BECTU's awareness campaign.

Martin Spence concludes: "This is a hugely significant time for freelances at the BBC, as their numbers are ever-increasing. It is not just rates that BECTU can have an impact on, so we hope members and non-members will give the campaign their full support."

Sign the petition!

Any freelancers who has worked for the BBC and/or BBC Resources in the last three years can sign the petitions which can be used by both BECTU members and non-members.

10 November 2006
Amended 11 November 2006