Thursday 30 September 2010

Dear says BBC pension strike dates not 'political'

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear (pictured) claimed today there was no political motive behind the broadcasting unions selecting strike dates, in their dispute with the BBC over pensions, which could black out coverage of next week's Tory party conference.

His statement followed a letter sent to the NUJ by BBC News presenters and political journalists, including Huw Edwards, Jeremy Paxman, Martha Kearney, Jim Naughtie, Carolyn Quinn, Michael Crick, and Nick Robinson, expressing "serious concerns" that the strike action during the conference "risks looking unduly partisan" and would undermine the BBC's reputation for impartiality.

Dear said:" Quite rightly, the focus of staff anger at the BBC remains the proposal to undermine people's pensions, earned through hard work over many years. These damaging proposals mean staff will pay significantly more for worse benefits or face a cap on pensionable pay of 1%.

"When NUJ members were asked for their views on these plans, 97% of them voted to take industrial action if an agreed settlement could not be reached. Strike action is always a last resort. NUJ members are responsible individuals and do not take such decisions lightly. Our position has always been that we wish to negotiate in a mature way to resolve the BBC's deficit at the appropriate time.

"However, despite our best efforts, the BBC has repeatedly rejected this position and left members with no choice but to take action to defend their pensions from attack. Strike dates were set by joint union reps from across the BBC, representing the views of thousands of members. Since these dates were fixed, officials have held meetings at all major BBC sites.

"Hundreds of members have attended and endorsed the decision to take action on 5th, 6th and 19th and 20th October if the BBC was not prepared to properly address their concerns. The selection of specific dates was not a political act. The dates were chosen by elected reps because they are major broadcast events and for no other reason.

"Tomorrow elected reps will meet again in London to agree next steps. The issue of strike dates will be openly debated at this meeting and a democratic agreement reached. Finally, we remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with the BBC and know that members will support us, through strike action if necessary, in doing this."

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