Socialist Worker

Vote no to rotten deal at BBC—strikes can defeat bosses’ pension attack

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2222

A two-day strike by BBC workers due to take place this week has been called off.

The three main unions at the corporation—Unite, NUJ and Bectu—postponed the walkout after bosses made a new offer.

But their proposal should not have been enough to call off the strikes.

Earlier this year, hundreds of BBC workers packed into mass meetings, furious at management plans to attack their pensions.

Many meetings voted unanimously for strikes and more than 90 percent of workers in the three unions voted for action in the ballot.

Bosses have made some minor concessions, but the main elements of the attack remain.

The offer, if accepted, will mean that the final salary pension scheme will still close to new members. Staff will also have to agree to work to the age of 65 rather than 60.

And for those who choose to remain in the final salary scheme, a 1 percent cap on future pension increases will be implemented.

Cap

Union leaders say they are not recommending the deal, just asking members to decide. But calling off the action, and not recommending rejection, will affect the momentum of the fightback.

BBC bosses have made several derisory offers during the talks. Director general Mark Thompson was forced to withdraw the pension perks of the highest paid managers after the NUJ exposed their pension “top ups”.

This is an indication of how powerful workers are.

When the unions announced the strike dates it seemed as though they were ready to take on the Tories, and the bosses.

One BBC worker told Socialist Worker, “We know more attacks are in the pipeline. The Tories hate the BBC. This strike would have made us stronger.

“The unions will say this is the best we can get—but we haven’t yet used our best weapon—strikes.

“People were organising a militant strike, we had enough pickets to cover from 4am‑8pm. Everyone was becoming more confident and determined.

“I hope the union leadership haven’t wasted the mood.”

The first two-day strike was planned for 5 and 6 October, hitting coverage of the Tory party conference and making a big political impact.

Of course the right wing media were disgusted.

Highly paid presenters like Jeremy Paxman signed a letter saying the choice of dates damaged the BBC’s claims of impartiality.

Then Ed Miliband weighed in. He called on the unions to change the dates in the name of “impartiality and fairness”.

The unions were wrong to ballot on the new offer, but many activists say future strikes cannot be ruled out.

Mark Scrimshaw, from Bectu said, “The second set of dates, on the 20 and 21 October still stand. Clearly if the membership reject the offer we’re looking to take strike action.”

BBC workers should reject the offer. The fact that the bosses have moved at all shows the power workers have, and how much they could win.


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News
Tue 5 Oct 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2222
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