BBC strike over pay and pensions on the cards after talks break down

Unions have warned the BBC that a strike ballot over pay and pensions has become more likely after talks with management broke down.

Earlier this week, the public broadcaster announced plans to overhaul its pension scheme, which has a £2bn deficit.

The proposal included closing the final-salary scheme to new joiners and capping contributions of existing members to 1% growth a year.

The BBC joint unions – the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bectu and Unite – said they had been unable to reach an agreement with the BBC on the 2010-11 pay review, and warned that strike action was an option.

In addition to the proposed changes to the pension scheme, BBC staff have been angered by a below-inflation flat-rate pay increase of £475 for staff paid up to £37,726 a year.

The NUJ described the pay offer as “unacceptable”, saying that more than a third of BBC journalists would receive nothing under the proposal, while the rest would receive a 1% pay rise. It argued that the BBC can afford to pay more to its staff across the board given the 2% rise in its licence-fee income.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “At a time of yet more job cuts and ever-increasing workloads, BBC management have launched an audacious pensions grab.

“A third of BBC staff are to be rewarded with a pay freeze – the rest will receive the equivalent of 1%. It is unacceptable, unfair and no way to reward hard work and dedication. For all staff it amounts to a real-terms pay cut.

“If the BBC fails to address the real concerns members have over pay and pensions, then a ballot for industrial action seems inevitable,” he added.

The BBC said in a statement: “We have tabled our final pay offer to the joint unions who will now undertake consultation with their members. This is due to conclude by mid to late July, and we are not going to speculate on the outcome of their discussions.”

Further controversy over the salaries of the BBC’s top presenters and stars is likely after the chairman of the BBC Trust said that it would reveal the names of its biggest earners where possible.

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