Cultural changes needed at BBC to ensure equal pay and to solve staff grievances, says NUJ
25 October 2018
The NUJ has supported the main findings of a critical report by MPs which said the BBC’s lack of transparency over pay had been “unlawful and discriminatory”, with woman still not being paid the same as male colleagues and not given the same opportunities.
The corporation was criticised for forcing its presenters to set to Personal Service Companies (PSCs), which left some of them with huge tax liabilities, and the MPs voiced concerns that the next round of cuts at the BBC would compromise the quality of services provided to the licence fee payer. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee report: Equal pay at the BBC
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“The DCMS committee’s report packs a punch and underlines the need for cultural change at the BBC that prioritises transparency and the rebuilding of trust amongst staff.
“The changes that have taken place in salary structures this year are only the first step in achieving genuine transparency that ensures that women can be confident they are not being short-changed when it comes to their salaries or their terms and conditions. The proposal to publish a gender breakdown of the ratio of men and women in salary quartiles should be implemented straight away.
“The report rightly highlights the unacceptable delays in sorting out equal pay complaints – there are examples of cases where informal processes have dragged on for as long as a year and formal grievances and appeals are routinely taking longer than the maximum 90-day targets. That’s not good enough. We need consistent time-frames that deal with the problems effectively and efficiently, with outcomes that address pay inequities including back-payments of lost wages and pension contributions.
“The committee rightly describes the treatment of presenters and correspondents forced to establish personal service companies as a ‘disgrace’ and the NUJ supports its call for further support and redress for those individuals who are now faced with punitive and hugely stressful tax liabilities.
“The NUJ and joint unions have been working hard with the BBC to tackle these problems and have made meaningful progress, but there remains work to be done before we can all be satisfied that pay inequity is stamped out.
“The committee’s concerns about the impact of budget cuts at the BBC are shared by the NUJ and should be the subject of wider public debate. We should be boosting the resources of our public service broadcaster, not subjecting it to ceaseless cuts and raids on the licence fee to fund other parts of the industry, or to bankroll welfare benefits such as free licences for the over-75s.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee said the BBC’s handling of both equal pay and PSCs had been extremely disappointing. It said the corporation has failed to properly consult with its staff and repeatedly failed to take proactive steps, instead relying upon their staff to come forward and raise concerns. This resulted in a crisis of trust which urgently needs to be addressed by the corporation.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the DCMS Committee said:
“The BBC acts as a beacon in public life. As an employer it has an even higher level of duty than others to advance equality of opportunity – but this it has failed to do. The BBC must take urgent action now if it’s to restore its reputation on equal pay and win back the trust of staff. There must be a reduction in the time taken to resolve grievances.”
The DCMS committee inquiry into BBC pay followed allegations made by the corporation’s former China editor Carrie Gracie of systematic pay discrimination against women. Michelle Stanistreet gave evidence alongside Carrie during the inquiry. The gender pay imbalance among the BBC’s top-earning staff emerged in 2017 when it was forced to publish a list of employees earning more than £150,000. This showed that two-thirds, including the seven highest earners, were men.
The BBC was accused by the MPs of a lack of transparency that helped normalise an approach to pay that was “discriminatory and unlawful” with many staff being “deliberately misled” by management over salaries, said the report.
The committee also voiced concerned that the next round of cuts at the BBC – £800m by 2021/22 – will influence the quality of the broadcaster’s output. The MPs noted that since 2010, when the licence fee was frozen, and the BBC was required to assume responsibility for funding the World Service, subsidising rural broadband and supporting S4C and local television, the funding for its services for UK audiences fell in real terms by 18 per cent. Over this period, ITV’s income grew by more than 30 per cent and Sky’s by 90 per cent in real terms.
The report said:
“The BBC has accomplished a great number of savings over the current and previous charter periods. However, to meet its target, it must save another £800m by 2021/22. The BBC accepts that the easier savings have been made and believes that the organisation is now operating at, or near to, the frontier of efficiency. We are concerned that, in delivering the next tranche of savings, the BBC may have to compromise on the quality of services provided to the licence fee payer.”
DCMS culture committee’s key recommendations:
- BBC must put in place a transparent pay structure for staff with training for managers to ensure they understand their legal duties on equal pay.
- Ensure staff at all levels can compare numbers of men and women within areas of pay bands.
- Appoint independent full-time managers to investigate pay grievances and hear cases.
- Commit to completing grievance process in all existing cases within next six months.
- Ensure sufficient oversight in pay decisions based on transparent objective criteria, not personalities.
- BBC Board to require progress report from Director General Tony Hall on steps taken to resolve pay discrimination.
- Commit to concrete targets by December 2018 to ensure that pay of high earners has no discriminatory element to it.
- Publish the salaries of BBC Studios staff and those of high-earning presenters of BBC programmes made by independent production companies in 2018/19 annual report.
- BBC should offer compensation for financial loss to individuals coerced into setting up Personal Service Companies who face substantial claims for outstanding tax.