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Jubilee strike off - BBC unions settle dispute

22 May 2012

A national dispute over pay and conditions at the BBC has been settled. BECTU, Unite and the NUJ yesterday endorsed concessions offered by BBC management. The dispute threatened strike action over the Jubilee weekend.

The corporation's 1 per cent pay offer for 2012-13 – subject to a minimum increase of £400 – remains derisory, the unions say, but they have secured concessions on conditions which will provide valuable protections during the current licence fee period.

They accept the below-inflation pay offer for 2012-13 will not be improved, but the agreement commits the BBC to avoiding a similar dispute in future:

"While is it accepted that funding cuts will have an impact on staff, both the joint unions and management believe a continuous pattern of annual settlements which represent a real cut in pay are neither desirable nor sustainable, the agreement says.
"A great deal is expected from people in the BBC and, while no one is immune from the impact of the reduced funding, employees must be paid fairly."

The dispute, prompted by last month's BBC's pay offer, also challenged the BBC on plans to cut allowances for unpredictable working. In addition, the dispute highlighted staff dissatisfaction with the appraisal system and dismay at the BBC's failure to implement an agreement reached last October on staff redeployment. Concessions have been secured in all three areas.

On staff allowances, the BBC states: "there will be no imposed reduction in unpredictability and flexibility rates for existing recipients".

Staff across the country had expressed anger at moves to introduce compulsory appraisal ratings – seen as paving the way for the introduction of performance-related pay.

The agreement states, "performance ratings will continue to be voluntary (both verbal and written) for the next two years. After that time the position will be reviewed".

With the threat of 2,000 job losses, courtesy of the Delivering Quality First strategy announced last October, the unions' recent agreement on redeployment is seen as critical. The new agreement has added guarantees that all managers will review a central database of staff at risk of redundancy before advertising vacancies either internally or externally.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"We are now making constructive and positive progress in trying to find proper and long-term solutions. The immediate risk of redundancies at TV current affairs and the World Service have been averted.
"This has only been achieved because NUJ members have stood solidly together in opposition to compulsory redundancies.
"We have been deeply concerned by the failure of the redeployment process and the settlement addresses the problem. The BBC's stance on pay is disappointing, but the package of concessions on other pay-related issues and appraisals addresses key concerns for journalists across the BBC."

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU's general secretary, said:

"The BBC's handling of this year's pay talks will continue to anger staff and our members will suffer financially.
"However, viewed nationally, pay was not the primary concern and, in light of this, we doubted the success of strike action.
 Yet we believe that this week's agreement with the BBC, incorporating valuable concessions not only on collective bargaining but also on key allowances, appraisals and on redeployment, represents vital protections for staff."

Mike Eatwell, Unite's industrial officer said:

"The decision of all parties to avoid a dispute has not been without concessions by both employer and unions.
"The clear threat to collective bargaining wrapped up in the management cuts proposals has been averted. The emphasis on simply shedding labour rather than putting the effort in to redeploy workers has also been reduced."

Tags: , bbc, broadcasting, BECTU, Unite, collective bargaining