EastEnders staff accept lump sum payment to replace travel allowance

EastEnders’ staff have suspended proposed strike action, after accepting a lump sum payment of £650 to replace travel allowance benefits.

Those affected are a group of 21 BBC Studios and Post Production (S&PP) staff members who claim the costs of travelling to and from work each day.

Mark Thomas, chief executive officer of BBC Studios and Post Production, said: “We are pleased that Bectu have requested that we re-offer our original transitional payments proposal, which they rejected during the negotiations.

“We are willing to do this provided the industrial action is called off. Bectu have suspended all planned industrial action while they consult with their members.”

In a letter to staff, Thomas elaborated: “These claims have been made and paid for several years, but there is no basis for them to be paid on a permanent basis under either BBC policies or HM Revenue and Customs rules.

“The costs amount to £100,000 a year – £500,000 over the five-year contract with EastEnders. We cannot afford to reimburse these travel-to-work claims for the benefit of just 21 colleagues at a time when other colleagues are losing their jobs as we work hard in all pillars to balance the books.

“We have been in discussion with [trade union] Bectu for the last six months to find a solution to this situation, but unfortunately we have not been able to reach common ground.

“We suggested a compromise – to reduce the payment over part of this financial year from 100% to 50% to 25% and then to zero. This would have still cost the company £50,000 this year, but it would have provided the 21 colleagues affected by the change with more time to adjust.

“This compromise was rejected, but we have still acted in good faith and continued to make payments at 100% during the discussions with Bectu. As a result, we will have paid out over £37,000 of the £50,000 we originally offered by the time payments stop next week.”

Helen Ryan, BBC division supervisory official at Bectu, wrote to all members: “S&PP management have agreed to this proposal and we are therefore suspending all industrial action with immediate effect to enable us to consult our members on the offer.”

According to Bectu, more details and a consultative ballot paper will be circulated to union members shortly.

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