STRIKE action at BBC Scotland has been scheduled for two sets of dates next month, after members of the National Union of Journalists rejected a ‘final’ proposal from management about staff pensions.
Says the NUJ, there was a 70 per cent vote, UK-wide, in favour of industrial action across the whole of the Corporation, prompting union reps to today agree plans for a series of strikes and other industrial action, with the threat of a walkout at Christmas on the cards.
NUJ members make up 17 per cent of BBC staff, UK-wide. There are circa 4000 NUJ members across the whole of the BBC, 300 at BBC Scotland – making it the second-largest trade union presence at the BBC, behind BECTU, which accepted the proposal along with other trade unions, Unite, Equity and the Musicians’ Union.
The BBC offer was described as ‘final’ by the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, following lengthy negotiations which are expected to keep going with the NUJ.
On the BBC website, the proposed changes to the pension scheme are described thus: “The dispute began over the BBC’s plans to reduce a £1.5 billion pensions deficit by capping increases in pensionable pay at one per cent from next April.
“Under the BBC’s new offer, the amount employees would have to pay into the pension scheme has been reduced from seven per cent cent to six per cent. In return, they would get a career-average benefit pension – based on the average salary over an employee’s entire career – that would be revalued by up to four per cent each year. The previous offer was 2.5 per cent.
“When employees draw their pension, payments will increase automatically each year in line with inflation, by up to four per cent – again up from a previous offer of 2.5 per cent.”
In a statement, NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, is quoted, as saying: “This massive vote against the BBC’s latest proposal comes as no surprise, given the fundamental ‘pay more – work longer – get less’ nature of the offer. NUJ members across the BBC have consistently dubbed the proposals a ‘pensions robbery’. That hasn’t changed. The BBC have now left members with no choice but to take action to defend their pensions.”
The NUJ is arguing that, under the proposals, people will be much poorer in retirement and the value of their pensions will be threatened every year by inflation.
Paul Holleran NUJ Scottish organiser, told allmediascotland.com: “BBC Scotland staff are so angry at the attack on their pensions at a time when the demands on them are growing to work harder and more flexibly and that is why the vote is so high. There will be widespread disruption if any industrial action takes place and it is down to sheer dogmatism of highly-paid senior executives who are pandering to the government cuts mentality.”
Forty-eight hour strikes have been scheduled for the fifth and sixth of next month, followed by the 15th and 16th. NUJ members will also refuse to take on additional duties or volunteer for acting-up duties as part of an indefinite work-to-rule.
Earlier this month, strike action that would have affected the BBC’s coverage of the Tory Party’s annual conference was averted ahead of a revised offer being presented.