The unions representing BBC workers have long been warning of disruption to key broadcasts over disputes arising from pension scheme changes. The National Union of Journalists, Bectu, and Unite officials rejected the latest pension reform offer from BBC Director General Mark Thompson. Two separate 48 hour walkouts are now confirmed for October 5 and 6 as well as October 19 and 20.
The planned strikes will disrupt coverage of the final two days of the Conservative Party Conference on October 5 and 6. The walkout later in the month will coincide with the announcement of the Treasury’s public spending review by Chancellor George Osborne scheduled for October 20. A previously planned walkout for September 20 and 21 was cancelled.
The unions notified members today in an email that the new offer by BBC was officially rejected. They now plan to hold meetings across the UK to discuss new pension proposals. These meetings will conclude on September 30. On October 1 the three union’s officials will hold a joint meeting.
Thompson warned staff that BBC management did not have much area in which to negotiate the corporation’s pension scheme due to a deficit that amounts to a possible 2 billion pounds.
He said: “Pension reform at the BBC is inevitable. We have a large current deficit in our scheme and face long-term pressures which, without action now, would undermine the scheme and compromise the broader finances of the BBC.”
BBC is expected to find out in April 2011 how much of a deficit really exists in the pension scheme. The company had asked for a cap on the pension at 1% of salary. A new offer asked for the employee to contribute more into the scheme up to 7% from 4%. Unions are rejecting this offer and also want BBC to revisit the pension scheme should they find out that the deficit is below 1.5 billion dollars. Whatever the deficit the company will have 10 years to pay off any shortage by either cost cutting or the selling of assets to pay money into the pension scheme.
In reference to BBC, Peter Skyte, National Official for the Unite Union, said that BBC’s latest offer fell “short in some areas and require clarification in others”.
“The BBC has a world class workforce which deserves world class pensions to provide for surety and security in retirement,” he added. “We feel it necessary to consult further with our members on the BBC’s latest proposals before determining a response and further action.”