Union leaders have offered to call off a fresh strike by BBC journalists if the corporation withdraws disciplinary action against three employees who took part in a 48-hour walkout last week.
Members of the National Union of Journalists staged a 48-hour stoppage last Friday and Saturday in a row over pensions which disrupted radio and TV programmes, and are due to strike again next week.
The union has been pressing the BBC to reconsider changes to its pension scheme if its deficit is found to be less than the currently estimated £1.5 billion when it is re-evaluated next year.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said the strike planned for next Monday and Tuesday will be called off if the BBC drops disciplinary action against three employees, including one who has been sacked.
The sacked journalist works in Washington for the BBC’s Arabic service while two employees at the corporation’s Latin American service have been given written warnings.
The NUJ said the BBC had changed its position on holding more talks about pensions and had now agreed to meet union leaders.
“We are pleased the BBC has changed its position and agreed to talks. We will endeavour to reach a negotiated settlement,” said Dear.
NUJ representatives met today and voted overwhelmingly to suspend next week’s strikes to allow new talks to be held, provided the disciplinary action is withdrawn.
The NUJ wants the new meeting to be held within the next seven days. The BBC’s executive board is due to meet in early December to consider the planned changes to pensions which sparked the dispute.
Last week’s walkout saw presenters including Radio Five Live’s Nicky Campbell and TV newsreaders Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards join the action.
The strike led to the scrapping of popular programmes including Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, the World At One and PM, with freelance staff and non-union journalists also drafted in on the TV news channel.
The strike followed a 70 per cent rejection from NUJ members of the BBC’s “final offer” on pensions, which the union described as making journalists “pay more, work longer and receive lower pensions”.