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BBC strike threat wins improved offer

1 October 2010

The unions that represent the majority of BBC staff have confirmed that strikes planned for 5 & 6 October have been called off after management tabled an improved offer on pensions earlier today.

After further consultation with the BBC next week, the NUJ, BECTU and Unite will run consultative ballots amongst their members to decide whether the improved offer is sufficient to resolve the long-running dispute. Plans for the strikes scheduled on 19 and 20 October will be reviewed once members have voted.

Emergency talks this week, which culminated in a further meeting with BBC management this morning, have resulted in the following key improvements in reply to the unions' demands:

  • Reduce employee contributions in CAB 2011 [the proposed new career average pension scheme] from 7% to 6%;
  • The lower of CPI and 4% for pensions in payment in CAB 2011;
  • The lower of CPI and 4% for revaluation in CAB 2011;
  • In periods of high inflation and subject to affordability and the scheme's investments performing in line with expectations, joint discretion between the BBC and the Trustees to award a higher percentage for revaluation purposes, with an arbitration process (details to be confirmed) in the event agreement cannot be reached;
  • An AVC matching facility in the new DC scheme for non-pensionable overtime and UPA allowances, subject to a maximum amount to be determined following further analysis of cost which will be subject to a maximum of £5million per annum. This option would be open to all recipients of overtime pay and UPA allowances in Old/New Benefits sections (who opt to move over to CAB 2011), the current CAB scheme, CAB 2011 and the new DC scheme;
  • A commitment to revisit elements of the pension reform proposals in the event the pension deficit in the April 2010 valuation (to be finalised and communicated no later than 30 June 2011) falls and stays below £1billion (before pension reform changes are factored in).

Redundancy measures

The new proposals also include important new measures to provide staff facing compulsory redundancy with time to identify alternative employment in the BBC.

Pay review

On the 2010/11 pay review, the proposals restate the earlier offer – a £475 flat rate increase applicable to all staff earning up to £37,726 – and confirm the intention to backdate payment to 1 August 2010.

Commenting on today's breakthrough, Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, 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."
"Though we still have a number of reservations about the new offer, we remain committed to clarifying the BBC's proposals through negotiation over the next couple of weeks and are hopeful that an acceptable offer, protecting benefits already accrued and not limiting future pensions accrual through the imposition of a punitive cap, can be agreed."

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, said:

"The union side has worked very hard over three long months to arrive at this point. We believe that the current proposals are certainly the best that can be achieved without industrial action and on this basis we will be consulting our members further. We have secured these improvements because of the willingness of all union members to make a stand against attacks on pensions; staff should be proud of their resolve."

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, said:

"Members are looking for the BBC to stand as a beacon of excellence in pay and pensions as much as it does in broadcasting, and not join a race to the bottom by irresponsible employers in shedding all risk and drastically shrinking incomes in retirement.
"Our members will now be asked whether the BBC offer meets this test."The three unions will be seeking further clarification from the BBC on the AVC matching facility referred to above and following this will organise consultative ballots amongst their memberships."

Tags: , strike, pensions, bbc, broadcasting, ballot