BBC workers are set to strike for two days during the Tory party conference. They are fighting a key battle over pensions—a vital issue for millions of workers.
Huge votes for action across the three main BBC unions—NUJ, Bectu and Unite—shows there is a big mood for action.
Workers pensions are being attacked, as is their ability to get one that reflects their wages throughout their career.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary spoke to Socialist Worker about the dispute.
He said, “The ballot results are unprecedented. More than 97 percent of our members voted for action. That reflects the anger at this attempted pensions robbery. But it also signifies a wider anger at the way the BBC is being run.
“There is excessive executive pay and special top-up pension funds for the few at the top while others face pay freezes, staffing shortages and having to cut corners or work longer just to try and maintain quality.”
Management has offered very limited concessions as a way to avert the strikes. These were rejected by the unions.
“The ballot has forced the BBC to make some significant concessions—but they remain unfair and unacceptable.
“They still ask members to pay significantly more for significantly less benefits,” said Jeremy. It will take determined and coordinated action for management to back down.
“The battle at the BBC isn’t just one which affects members of the three unions involved.
“The BBC’s plans will be used as a blueprint for other parts of the public sector if management get away with it.”
Jeremy also talked about the importance of joining up the resistance to Tory cuts.
“It’s vital when the attacks on us are coordinated, that we co-ordinate our responses.
“As a union we seek to build support for all other workers in struggle by making information available to all our branches, giving a platform for strikers to speak and do collections at meetings and so on.
“Those sections of the media controlled by a few powerful anti-union millionaires are never going to give unions a fair hearing. But we can seek to make sure those working for those media know the truth about the disputes.
“It is important we also help build alternative avenues for strikers to get their message out.
The BBC strikes will have an impact. The strikes on 5 and 6 October will put a major dent in the Tory party conference coverage.
Further planned strikes on 20 and 21 October will coincide with the government’s announcement of public sector spending cuts.
Jeremy said, “In previous disputes over pay or job cuts high profile presenters have backed the union.
“Last time the Today programme, Newsnight and most news programmes were taken off air.
“If we are forced to strike this time we expect it will be even better supported.
“If the bosses intend to build a scabbing operation it will simply prolong the dispute.
“Instead of spending the time organising scabs to do our members’ work, the BBC should be putting efforts in to settling the dispute.”