Journalists at BBC in strike vote over 1 per cent pay rise

Thousands of BBC staff are to be balloted for strikes over pay, with unions warning of disruption to coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations if action goes ahead.

Members of unions representing journalists, technicians and other employees will vote in the coming weeks, with the result due on 21 May.

The unions would have to give seven days’ notice of any action, but they would have time to call strikes over the June weekend of events.

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Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting union Bectu, said the ballot decision followed the imposition of a 1 per cent pay rise.

“Warning of action over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend is extremely regrettable, but this offer is derisory.

“By going over the unions’ heads and increasing our members’ salaries before negations are concluded, the BBC is very helpfully placing a down-payment in our members pockets to help them through any forthcoming Jubilee strike.

“This is an act of poor faith. It adds injury to the insulting pay offer. The BBC had actually asked us to consult members and had scheduled a meeting on pay with us for next week.

“We had informed them that a direct offer of 1% would be seen as a hostile act by the joint unions. We now have no option but to call a strike ballot at the earliest opportunity.”

A BBC spokesman said: “This year we have decided to implement the pay increase early as a small way of recognising the hard work that is going on across the BBC in implementing the savings we need to make and meeting the challenges we face in 2012.

“We are very disappointed that the unions have decided to ballot their members about taking industrial action. The economic climate remains tough for everyone and this action will not change our circumstances.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: “The NUJ does not accept the implementation of this derisory pay award with no attempt at genuine negotiation.

“It is not just about pay, it is about the BBC’s failure to negotiate on a range of issues affecting our members. This includes the failure of the BBC management to properly implement a redeployment scheme that was agreed in autumn.

“This has left us with members needlessly facing compulsory redundancy. There are jobs these members could go to, but the BBC is failing to fulfil its part of the bargain.”

Mike Eatwell of Unite said: “In the middle of a pay negotiation, management have chosen to terminate collective bargaining and impose a sum. That is not acceptable to Unite, who will oppose any withdrawal of our members’ right to bargain on their pay and conditions.”

The unions’ claim, submitted in January, sought a pay increase of 2% above RPI inflation, subject to a minimum increase of £1,000.

The unions justified the claim by saying that staff salaries had fallen by 8% behind inflation since 2007.

Morrissey added: “The unions must make a stand and challenge the BBC’s final offer because failure to do so will result in more of the same until at least 2017.

“The BBC’s licence fee has been set until that date and by making a final offer of 1% this year, it is clear that the staff are at the end of the food chain when it comes to management priorities for expenditure.”

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