Uproar at BSkyB changes

Staff at BSkyB's call centres are up in arms over changes to terms and conditions.

In the latest development, the company has introduced a controversial new bonus scheme which is having a dramatic negative effect on the earnings of sales staff. Staff performance is rated from 1 to approximately 500, with staff ranked on this scale earning a percentage of their weekly income in additional income.

BECTU has growing membership at the company's Livingstone and Dumfermline call centers, as well as the satellite broadcasting base in Osterley.

"Staff are livid about the changes which threaten real hardship under the pretext that the new scheme will reward staff who perform well. The company cannot expect staff to bear such cuts even in the short term." explained Scottish Officer, Paul McManus.

The top ranked member of staff will double their earnings during the period. However staff performing at the lower end could receive just an additional 3 per cent in additional earned income.

"One member of staff who earned £120 a week in additional income under the previous bonus scheme has now seen his earnings plummet to £22 additional income a week. This experience is typical" said Paul McManus, Scottish Officer for the broadcasting union BECTU.

Sales staff earnings can start as low as £10,000 so staff are very reliant on their ability to earn additional income from overtime or the bonus scheme.

"The company has introduced this new system without consultation or negotiation with staff. The company says the bonus scheme will reward those who work hardest. However the experience of the vast majority is that earnings are being cut. Some staff have reported a 75 per cent drop in additional earnings which they will clearly find difficult to sustain." Paul McManus continued.

Morale at the Call Centres in Livingston and Dunfermline, which employ some 6000 staff, has taken a nose dive this year. In addition to changes to the bonus scheme, Sky has also proposed changes to bank holidays and to the company's sick pay rules.

The company wants to change the rules on bank holiday working so that staff no longer have the right to refuse work on public holidays; in addition the company plans to withdraw overtime pay when bank holidays are worked. For the majority of staff this represents a real loss - either in lost earnings or in valuable guaranteed family time.

New sick pay roles also mean that staff who are absent from work due to ill health will receive less company sick pay than previously. Once again the changes have been introduced without consultation and negotiation with staff.

BECTU, which has recognition agreements with the BBC and ITV companies, is campaigning for recognition at Sky. The union has pledged to support its members in claims to the tribunals for unlawful deductions from wages if Sky press ahead with cuts to bank holiday working and sick pay. Under contract law changes to contract should be agreed with individuals; if no agreement is reached the company is at risk of legal action.

The union is also hoping to intervene on behalf of BSkyB's installers, who are currently facing job losses due to redundancy.

27 March 2002