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Resounding NUJ victory in landmark equal pay case

Samira and Michelle  -  © NUJ

10 January 2020

The NUJ today welcomed the finding of the London Central Employment Tribunal, which determined that the presenting work of Samira Ahmed on BBC’s Newswatch programme was equal to that of Jeremy Vine on Points of View.  

The panel found that the work of the two presenters was “like work” – the same or broadly similar – making it clear that any differences between the two programmes were minor and had no impact on the work that the two presenters did, or the skills and experience required to present the programmes.

In its written judgment the panel stated: “The difference in pay in this case was striking. Jeremy Vine was paid more than six times what the claimant was paid for doing the same work.”

When providing evidence to justify the pay differential, the BBC’s legal team argued that presenting Points of View relied upon Jeremy Vine’s ability to have a “glint in his eye” or to be “cheeky”. The panel dismissed this argument, stating: “We had difficulty in understanding what the respondent meant by a ‘glint in the eye’ and how that translated into a ‘skill’ or ‘experience’ to do a job. How does one acquire such a skill or experience? In any event, the light hearted tone and any cheekiness were achieved primarily by the script being written in a particular style. The attempts at humour came from the script.”

The judgement also highlights the lack of transparency and inconsistency in the BBC’s approach to setting pay: “The BBC found itself in difficulties in this case because it did not (and, to an extent, still does not) have a transparent and consistent process for evaluating and determining pay for its on-air talent.”

Samira Ahmed, NUJ member, said:

"No woman wants to have to take action against their own employer. I love working for the BBC. I'm glad it's been resolved. I'd like to thank my union the NUJ, especially Michelle Stanistreet the general secretary, my legal team Caroline Underhill of Thompsons Solicitors and my barrister Claire Darwin and everyone - all the women and men who've supported me and the issue of equal pay. I'm now looking forward to continuing to do my job, to report on stories and not being one." 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, welcomed the finding as a resounding victory for Samira and everyone seeking equal pay at work.

"It was an incredibly brave decision on Samira’s part to take forward this case. No-one wants to battle their employer in a public tribunal hearing, but the BBC’s failure to meaningfully negotiate made legal proceedings inevitable.

"For the BBC this became a battle over the differences as they saw it between their internal divisional silos of News and Entertainment. For the NUJ, this was simply a case of two roles that were commensurate, on two programmes that were supremely comparable, carried out by two high profile experienced presenters.

"The NUJ is hugely appreciative of our excellent legal team, Caroline Underhill, equal pay practice lead at Thompsons Solicitors and Claire Darwin, a barrister specialising in employment and discrimination law at Matrix Chambers. We also thank the judge and panel members for their clear and thorough assessment of this case.

"Since the tribunal ended, the NUJ has pressed the BBC to resolve all of our outstanding cases, resulting in numerous positive outcomes, but there is still work to be done. I’d call on the BBC to learn the lessons from this judgment, and to work constructively with the NUJ to sort these cases out. The joint unions have done a lot of work with the BBC on improving pay structures, but there is much more to be done to ensure that genuine equality and transparency on pay becomes the reality for all employees at the BBC.

"This outcome should also be a wake-up call for all employers. Stamping out the scourge of unequal pay at work should be a priority for all organisations – the NUJ will be building on this victory and supporting our members throughout the industry in making pay inequity a thing of the past."

Tags: , bbc, equal pay, samira ahmed, employment law, employment tribunal, women, women in the nuj, broadcasting, equality