BBC staff vote to strike over pension changes

BBC staff have voted to strike in a row over changes to their pension arrangements.

In ballots calling for strike action, which closed at lunchtime on 1 September, more than 90% of the BBC’s members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bectu and Unite supported calls both for strike action and for action short of strike.

The row is over a proposed 1% cap on future pension increases.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary at the NUJ, said: “The massive scale of this vote is unprecedented – it is a reflection of the wave of anger and sense of betrayal which has greeted the BBC’s attempted pensions robbery.

“BBC management have an opportunity to avoid deeply damaging strike action by guaranteeing the value of pensions already earned and withdrawing their punitive and draconian proposals.”

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary at Bectu, added: “Today’s massive ballot result confirms the extent of staff anger over the BBC’s plans; we clearly have a resounding mandate for strike action to challenge the BBC on its plans to break its pensions agreement with staff.”

Peter Skyte, national officer at Unite, added: “Our members have decisively demonstrated their opposition to the BBC’s pensions and pay proposals.

“The BBC needs to think again about stealing pension benefits already earned and retaining a defined benefit pension scheme in order to regain the trust and support of its workforce for the challenging times that face the organisation in the future.”

Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, who has already offered to take a 25% pay cut in a bid to avert a strike, sent out a letter to all BBC staff yesterday.

He wrote: “I promised to come back to you in early September once we had had a chance to look in detail at all the comments and suggestions you have put forward on the initial pension proposals. Thank you all for your contributions to the consultation so far.

“As I said in August our room for manoeuvre is limited. We are facing a large pension deficit and must act now to reduce it. But we would like to meet your concerns as far as we can. 

“During the last few weeks, we have been talking to the joint unions to discuss the areas where there may be scope for alternatives. We have looked at a number of options and are now in the process of working up the details of what we believe could be an additional workable proposal.

“We expect to be ready to announce full details in the middle of September and we anticipate this will trigger an additional consultation period.” 

The joint union representatives have decided talks should continue until mid-September when the BBC has said it will table alternative proposals. Any announcement on strike dates will be deferred until that time.

Read more articles on the changes to the BBC’s pension arrangements