The News is something that we probably take for granted. For many, it’s the first thing they switch on in the morning, or it’s something you listen to while you drive to work or before you go to bed. But, tomorrow and Saturday (5 and 6 Nov) could be a different story, as the BBC faces a 48-hour strike over pensions, which has been organised by the National Union of Journalists. Star presenters, including Fiona Bruce, are expected to participate in the walkout, which will lead to News Bulletins being hit, Newsnight facing disruption and certain radio programmes being cancelled. The Director General of the BBC made a last minute plea to those participating in the walk-out, as core news services across both TV and radio will suffer, as there simply aren’t sufficient resources to provide the necessary cover.
The strike follows significant changes to the BBC’s final salary pension scheme, in response to a growing pension deficit. The BBC plans to reduce the £1.5bn pension deficit by capping increases in pensionable pay at 1% from next April. Although some negotiations have already taken place, the NUJ claims that the BBC ‘has no appetite for negotiation’. After negotiations, employee contributions were reduced from 7% to 6% and a career average pension scheme would be introduced to replace the final salary pension scheme, which is very lucrative for the worker, but hugely expensive for the firm. Despite these changes, members of the NUJ still believe the proposals are fundamentally ‘unfair’.
This strike is unlikely to be the only disruption faced by the public, as further action is expected to occur throughout the rest of November and there are also concerns that Christmas broadcasts may face interruption. Those NUJ members taking part in the walk-out are expected to experience a significant loss in earnings, without there being any noticeable benefit in the long term. Although some will support the strike action, many will be unimpressed. As the Director General wrote in an email to all BBC staff:
“The public – many of whom are facing difficult employment and economic pressures – will find it very hard to understand why the BBC’s service to them should be impaired in this way”.
- BBC News chief says pension plans were mishandled
- BBC journalists’ pension strike threatens programming
- BBC facing news blackout as journalists strike over pensions
- BBC strike set to disrupt News coverage
- BBC staff to stage strike action
The Guardian, Tara Conlan (4/11/10)
The Guardian, John Plunkett (4/11/10)
The Guardian, Tara Conlan (3/11/10)
BBC News (4/11/10)
- Independent Public Service Pensions Commission: Interim Report
Pensions Commission, Lord Hutton (October 2010)
- What is the difference between a final salary pension scheme and a career average pension scheme? Which is more beneficial for a) the recipient of the pension and b) the pension provider?
- Is anyone likely to benefit from this 48-hour strike? (Think about who the BBC’s competitors are.)
- The BBC article says that ‘payments will increase automatically each year in line with inflation’. What does this mean? Are increases in payments that are indexed to inflation better than payments being indexed to earnings? Explain your answer.
- Apart from striking against changes to pensions, what are some of the other typical reasons for strike action?
- How effective are strikes likely to be? What are the key determinants of the success or failure of them?