NUJ calls off second 48-hour BBC strike to resume talks

A planned strike by BBC journalists which would have disrupted TV and radio programmes next week was called off last night to allow fresh talks to be held in a row over pensions.

Members of the National Union of Journalists caused widespread disruption to schedules when around 4,000 staged a 48-hour walkout last Friday and Saturday. That strike was due to be repeated on Monday and Tuesday.

But the union said last night the corporation had agreed to hold fresh talks about planned changes to the pension scheme and had also dropped disciplinary action taken against a handful of employees who took part in last week’s strike.

The NUJ said the BBC had changed its position on holding more talks and said it would now endeavour to reach a negotiated settlement.

BBC director general Mark Thompson sent an email to staff tonight saying calling off the strike was “very welcome news”.

He went on: “It means we will be able to deliver our news and current affairs programmes and services to audiences here and around the world without interruption or loss of quality.

“It also means that our journalistic and broadcast teams will be able to work together without the difficult and sometimes divisive issues that inevitably accompany strikes.”

Thompson said the BBC had not changed its pension reform package drawn up in the face of a deficit estimated to be £1.5bn.

He said the corporation could not afford to revisit the terms of an agreement it had reached with unions representing other staff at the BBC, including technicians.

But he said management was willing to give “greater clarity” about how the pension reform package will work after the end of a consultation with staff which ends next week.

“We will be happy to meet the unions, which of course includes the NUJ, later this week to go through the points of clarification that have been raised with us,” said the director general.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We welcome the BBC’s change of heart and agreement to enter talks following industrial action by thousands of journalists.

“We will enter those talks determined to seek a negotiated settlement.”

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