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Threat of Jubilee strike lifted – BBC unions settle dispute

22 May 2012

The unions at the BBC have confirmed that a national dispute over pay and conditions, which threatened action over the Jubilee weekend, has been settled. The pay offer remains pitiful, say the unions – BECTU, the NUJ and Unite – but important concessions on future bargaining justify the settlement.

The unions said that the BBC's one per cent pay offer for 2012-13 (subject to a minimum increase of £400) remains derisory, but talks with senior management have secured concessions on conditions that will provide valuable protections during the current licence fee period.

The agreement with the BBC, discussed and endorsed by BECTU and NUJ representatives who met separately in London yesterday (21 May), accepts that the below inflation pay offer for 2012-13 will not be improved.

However, the agreement commits the BBC to avoiding a similar dispute in future. The document says:

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

The dispute, prompted by the BBC's pay offer last month, 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 that whatever the result of continuing talks to find a new approach to these payments "there will be no imposed reduction in current UPA and Flexibility allowance rates for existing recipients".

On appraisals, staff across the country had expressed their anger at moves to introduce compulsory ratings in a move seen as paving the way for future proposals on performance related pay, something to which staff and unions are strongly opposed. The agreement states that "performance ratings will continue to be voluntary (both verbal and written) for the next two years after which time the position will be reviewed".

With the threat of 2000 job losses, courtesy of the Delivering Quality First strategy announced last October, implementation of the unions' recent agreement on redeployment is seen as critical. Talks in the last few days have added essential guarantees to the system that will require all managers to 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 with 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 so the settlement today addresses the problem which we welcome. 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 general secretary, said:

"There is absolutely no question that the BBC's handling of this year's pay talks will continue to anger staff and what is more, our members, not least in London, will suffer financially. However from the soundings we have taken, viewed nationally, pay was not the primary concern and in light of this we doubted the success of strike action over the Jubilee weekend.
"However, putting basic pay to one side for the moment, we believe that this week's agreement with the BBC, incorporating as it does valuable concessions, not only on collective bargaining but on key allowances, appraisals and on redeployment, represents vital protections for staff which will resonate with members across the country."

Mike Eatwell, Unite 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.
"There is much still to be done by both the social partners to address the concerns of the workforce and the restrictions created by the licence fee settlement, but there is no denying this is still a serious cut in the purchasing power of the employees salaries."

Tags: , broadcasting, bbc, strike, bectu, unite, delivering quality first