AS WORKERS went to press, BBC staff nationwide were voting in consultative ballots on their employer’s response to the overwhelming strike ballot and planned industrial action. Strikes planned for October were called off to allow the offer to be considered. The new offer gives protection for benefits already accrued, reduces the employee’s contribution from 7 per cent to 6 per cent, and removes the proposed punitive cap on the accrual of future benefits.
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, whose members recorded a 97 per cent ballot for action, said, “Given the outrage the BBC's pensions proposals have caused, which staff have consistently viewed as a pensions robbery, we're obviously pleased that the BBC have seen fit to table an improved offer, rather than face strike action. Clearly, the determination of staff at the BBC to fight to defend their pensions has forced a rethink on the part of the BBC's management.”
The BBC’s pensions offer comes as part of an overall negotiation that includes new measures to give staff facing compulsory redundancy more time to find jobs within the corporation. As staff digest the implications of the latest licence settlement – BBC management agreed to a budget cut of 16 per cent and a freeze in the licence fee for six years, as well as taking on responsibility (from the Foreign Office) for the World Service and BBC Monitoring – the threat to jobs is now intense.