Bectu, NUJ and Unite halt strike ballot after Beeb meets their demands


BECTU, the NUJ and Unite have today confirmed that a new agreement with the BBC over the conduct of talks on its cuts plan Delivering Quality First meets their short-term demands.

The unions have been balloting for strike action over the BBC’s previous refusal to lift artificial deadlines for changes to staff terms and conditions. The new agreement now means that the unions’ ballots – all of which were expected to return substantial votes in favour of strike action – will be halted and the immediate prospect of industrial action is averted.

The new agreement is a win for the unions whose members have been clear about their opposition to the planned withdrawal of key allowances for new staff from April 2012, and to changes to redundancy terms for current staff from September 2013.

The new agreement with the BBC, hammered out in talks during the past week, now means that all proposed changes to staff terms and conditions will be discussed as part of a single major review, to take place over the course of next year. The BBC has agreed that those talks will include discussions about recompense for unsocial hours as well as for unpredictable working.

Confirming the BBC’s earlier concession to include talks on the future of unpredictability allowances as part of the broader review of staff pay and grading, Diane Dumas, head of employee relations writing on 23 November to Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, for the joint unions said:

“We have also agreed in principle with you that all the proposed changes announced on 6 October as reflected in the letter to the joint unions dated 12 October will now be discussed as part of pay and grading reform negotiations and that we will extend the proposed implementation date for changes to new starter terms and conditions from 1 April 2012 to 31 December 2012.”

Commenting on the breakthrough, which has now been endorsed by representatives from all three unions, Gerry Morrissey said: “BBC staff should draw some real comfort from the outcome of talks with BBC management this week. The support from union members in the ballots and their willingness to voice their concerns locally have paid off. The gun which was pointed at our heads has now been removed and we will enter the talks on staff conditions without any preconditions as to what the outcome will be.

“I have no doubt that the talks will be complex and difficult. However, staff now know that their employment terms will not be compromised before the robust negotiations we expect have even begun. It is imperative that all BBC staff support the joint unions during these talks.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “I want to thank all union members across the BBC for their solid action and support. The strength of our collective response has forced management to change their approach. We can now embark on genuine negotiations on terms and conditions next year. The NUJ, together with our sister unions, will continue to fight for our BBC by campaigning to stop the job cuts and defend public service broadcasting.”

Unite industrial officer Michael Eatwell said: “UNITE reps have welcomed this development as it enables unions and management to address crucial issues in an atmosphere of greater co-operation. The financial constraints that the BBC has agreed to means that some very difficult decisions lie ahead for the workforce. The only way that can succeed is if everyone feels part of that process and not just recipients of imposed punitive change from on high.”

On 6 October the BBC launched Delivery Quality First – a strategy heavily criticised by the joint unions as threatening the BBC’s future as a quality public service broadcaster. Director-general Mark Thompson announced a five year cuts plan intent on saving £700m by 2017 in response to the 2010 licence fee settlement which wiped out 16 per cent of the BBC’s income. The BBC is currently looking to meet two-thirds of the planned savings from cuts to staff pay and conditions and the loss of 2000 jobs. The joint unions are committed to fighting these proposals.

This week’s important new agreement with the BBC on the conduct of DQF talks also “reaffirms the BBC’s commitment to the redeployment agreement” signed with the joint unions just two days before the DQF announcement.

The joint unions are organising a lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 6 December to provide BBC staff and supporters of the BBC with the opportunity to rally the support of MPs against the cuts; the lobby will take place from 3-5pm at the House of Commons and will be followed by a public meeting from 6.30pm in Committee Room 14.

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