Could Pension Concessions Head off a BBC Strike?

The BBC appears to be preparing to make significant concessions to plans to overhaul its final salary pension scheme in an effort to head off the threat of industrial action that could hit its Proms coverage.

Say press reports yesterday, BBC staff reacted angrily when management announced plans in late June to cap final salary pension benefits for existing members from April next year, as well as closing the scheme to new employees. The Corporation is said to have claimed the changes were necessary to tackle a £2 billion pension deficit.

However, generous pension provision has long been regarded by BBC staff as compensation for generally lower salaries than available in the commercial sector.

Add the reports, broadcasting union, Bectu, and the National Union of Journalists, are balloting their BBC members over the pension proposals and the annual pay offer, with the ninth of next month earmarked as the potential first day for strike action. 

Industrial action next month could hit the BBC's coverage of the climax of this year's Proms season.

The BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, and his management team are said to be looking at other ways of dealing with the pension deficit – including using the proceeds from the sale of a stake in BBC Magazines, which publishes titles including the Radio Times, and the disposal of property including BBC Television Centre in west London.

The BBC Magazines deal could be concluded in the next few months, but the sale of land and property is unlikely to be finalised for several years. Any move to tackle the pension deficit will also have to be cleared by regulators.

Thompson is understood to be taking part in a pensions forum tomorrow,  to be televised internally by the BBC.

Says the MediaGuardian website: ”The most contentious issue that BBC management is understood to be seeking to address is the proposal to cap pensionable salaries. From April 2011 the BBC had proposed that pensionable salaries would grow at a maximum of one per cent a year, whatever salary increases an employee received. Other options expected to be discussed at the pension forum on Monday include staff paying in more and changing retirement ages.”