Monday, November 01, 2010

Support the strikers

We are gearing up for strikes at the BBC - I've been doing reps meetings and drafting strike leaflets and bulletins most of today.

Here's some of the appeal that's gone out to NUJ branches

Support NUJ members fighting for fair pensions at BBC

Can you afford to simply give away £100,000, £25,000 or even ‘just’ £10,000? Of course not.

But those are the kinds of sums every journalist faces losing under the BBC’s latest pension proposal.

It’s unfair and unacceptable. For all BBC staff it means paying more, working longer or getting significantly lower pensions. In some cases, all three!

BBC journalists are not asking for higher pensions. They are not even saying they wouldn’t consider paying more or working longer for a fair pension settlement.

That means a deal based on the real deficit in the scheme, not speculative and questionable figures.

It means a pension which does not lose a significant part of its value every single year for the rest of their lives – which is what will happen under the current proposals.
And it should be a deal that means what has been promised to them - which they have already paid for - is protected.

The current offer fails those tests and it
fails BBC staff.
That’s why they’ve been left with no choice but to take
industrial action on 5 and 6 November and 15 and 16 November. They can’t afford
not to…and they need YOUR support

How you can help:
Make a donation. Make cheques payable to NUJ (marked on back BBC Strike hardship fund) and send to General Secretary, NUJ, Headland House, 308 Gray’s Inn Road,
London WC1X 8DP.
Send messages of support. Messages should be sent to
Join the picket lines – visit your local BBC centre to join the picket on 5 and 6 November.
For further details of picket times/places contact
Invite a speaker – contact your local BBC rep or to arrange a speaker for your next meeting
Keep up to date on developments – see for the latest news of meetings and action.

As part of the mobilising I did a rally in Manchester on Saturday and spoke to the 300-strong Education Activists Network conference in London on Sunday

I also found time to speak out about David Cameron's latest jibes at BBC journalists.

This morning I visited an FBU picket line to offer my solidarity with them and wrote my Tribune column about media attacks on striking workers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red Ed?

Not content with calling the BBC workers threatened strike "irresponsible", Ed Milliband is now having a go at the firefighters threatened strike action on 5 November.

Instead of attacking the FBU maybe "Red Ed" should speak out more to denounce the threat of mass sackings of firefighters - how much more irresponsible can any employer be.

Away from disputes ( and we await the outcome of the consultative ballot of BBC members tomorrow) I've been to the TUC General Council, spoke at an excellent meeting of the London Photographers Branch last night, met with the union's legal firm, Thompsons and have been planning some of the activities to oppose the BBC cuts along with activists from the World Service Branch.

A welcome intervention from shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis today who is calling for an investigation in to what he calls the "dodgy deal" that led to the licence fee settlement - and which now will inevitably lead to significant cuts in jobs and services.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hold on tight this could get bumpy...

So the big day is here - George Osborne and his fellow millionaires in government will tell us we've all been spending too much and begin the great welfare slash and burn programme they've been itching to deliver since the election.

490,000 public sector jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector which are reliant on the spending of either public sector organisations or workers, communities facing devastation, services cut - the toll looks grim.

For our members at S4C, BBC, World Service and Monitoring the news is alarming. A last minute deal between BBC management and will see the BBC licence fee frozen at the current level of £145.50 for the next six years, a 16% cut in real terms.

The BBC has also agreed to relieve the Government of funding for a range of services and take on the burden themselves.

Among the extra commitments the BBC has signed up to are to fund the World Service and Welsh-language broadcaster S4C out of the licence fee from 2015. The BBC has also agreed to take over funding of BBC Monitoring.

In addition it will provide £150m a year for the rollout of superfast broadband to rural areas from 2013 and £25m a year for local TV and online content. A further one-off capital investment in local TV and online services of £25m will also come from the licence fee and the BBC will also underwrite the rollout of the digital radio network nationally.

In total, the BBC has committed to spend an extra £340m of licence-fee money to fund all these undertakings by 2014-15. Government expenditure from central taxation will fall by an equivalent amount.

Initial estimates suggest that more than 3500 jobs will be at stake and that some BBC services will have to be cut. As Bectu General Secretary Gerry Morrissey said last night this is the BBC doing the Government's dirty work.

We are led to believe there is no alternative. That's bollocks. The Tax Justice Network and unions have set out a clear alternative. The problem for the Government is that doesn't fit with their ideology.

Yesterday I went to the TUC's rally in Westminster Hall, a good start to the campaign against the cuts. Today I'll be speaking at 3 rallies in Parliament, at Downing Street and at the start of a feeder march in Lincoln Inn's Fields. Saturday there are demonstrations in different parts of the UK. It's gonna be busy.

In between times I'll meet the BBC to hear more details of how the cuts will impact and attend the TUC General Council to discuss the campaign with other unions.

Yesterday we briefed MPs in our Parliamentary Group about these issues and the campaign for Charles Atangana, the Home Office's Rapid Review of Terrorism Powers (which includes Section 44), the threat to council-run information services, the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry in to phone-hacking and the likely bid by Rupert Murdoch to take full control of Sky.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A brief respite from the BBC

Back from Brussels where I was at a meeting of the EFJ's Labour Rights Expert Group where we discussed union organising at Sky, lobbying in Europe over labour laws and a mapping project for the European new media industry.

I also had a useful meeting with IFJ General Secretary Aidan White.

Prior to that it has been BBC, BBC and a bit more BBC.

I've been in negotiations (more tomorrow), done member meetings across the UK, had reps meetings, done dozens of media interviews and tried to answer dozens of questions from members and reps about the BBC's latest offer.

The unions are now consulting members on the latest offer - all indications are it will be rejected and strike action will follow.

And in between it all we've had the National Executive Council, I was on a panel with BBC journalist Jonathon Charles, former ITV News head Clive Jones and media academic Nathalie Fenton talking about international journalism in the 21st century. Hope we didn't put too many students off!

Today we've also launched our new campaign to stop the exploitation of interns. Read all about it here.

Mark Byford to go...?

Rumours abound tonight that BBc Deputy Director General Mark Byford is to go. Mark is a friendly and likeable man but his alleged £400,000 p.a. pension, his decision to spend £5000 going to South Africa for the World Cup while the BBC was facing cuts and his poor response to the Hutton report when the BBc was facing a political crisis mean few union members will be sad about the news.
I understand they will not be replacing his post - good.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More massive votes against BBC pension proposals

Done three BBC pensions meetings with members at Television Centre and Millbank in the past three days - and there is a continuing overwhelming rejection of the BBC's pensions latest proposals. Not a single person has spoken up for accepting what is on the table. Back in to negotiations tomorrow with a clear set of demands from the meetings of members. There have also been unanimous or overwhelming votes for strike action at big meetings at White City, Monitoring and Bristol.

Busy preparing the strike materials - posters being printed, leaflets drafted and stickers on order.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Manchester (United)!

Back from the TUC Conference in Manchester tired but inspired - and it's not often you can say that. The inspired by TUC Conference bit, not the tired bit.

With the shackles of the "we can't do anything in case it damages the New Labour government" shackles thrown off a real fighting spirit emerged. Co-ordinated industrial action against cuts is firmly on the agenda. Major demonstrations and lobbies are planned. The defence of pensions is at the heart of the agenda. There is an alternative!

Of course at this stage it's words - and we need to turn it in to action but there felt a sense of purpose and determination across the unions on a whole range of issues.

The NUJ delegation did an excellent job. The TUC backed our condemnation of Johnston Press and their use of the anti-union laws, supported our photographer members facing the misuse of s44 stop and search powers, applauded our stand against the BBC's pensions robbery and welcomed the work we were doing with journalists unions in countries like Zimbabwe.

If it's war, we didn't start it...

There I was, 6.30am, heading to the BBC studios in Manchester to do an interview when i popped in to a newsagent to grab some juice. BBC UNIONS' WAR ON TORIES screamed the front page of the Daily Mail.

Apparently, the decision of BBC workers to strike over the Corporation's pensions robbery, is a declaration of war on one part of the Government.

Press Gazette have helpfully run my entire speech to the TUC Conference later that day in response.

The planned strike dates - 5 and 6 October and 19 and 20 October have received widespread coverage and there is a clear attempt in some of the more hostile sections of the media to blame the victims of the BBC's pensions robbery rather than the thieves.

93.4% of NUJ members voted for strike action. More than 90% of members of the 3 unions - NUJ, Bectu and Unite - did so. There is a clear mandate for action - and there is a determination to protect pensions. Many people have saved for years in the expectation that they would receive £x on retirement. It was a promise. Now that promise is being broken.

The BBC took a partial contributions holiday over 13 years - put that money back in. Cap pensions so no-one walks away with a six-figure annual pension. Use a small portion of the profits from BBC Worldwide each year. Some or all of these can help to ensure the pension scheme is sustainable over the long term.

No-one wants to stop coverage of the Comprehensive Spending Review. No-one (well, most) don't want to go on strike. But they will to stop the unacceptable, unfair and unnecessary pension changes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lucky 13?

The blog has risen one place in this year's Tigmoo guide to the top union blogs - it now stands at number 13. Note to self - must do better.

It's been the first day in weeks I've not had to spend most of it dealing with the BBC pensions dispute so instead I've spent it dealing with the NUJ pension scheme and attending our Finance Committee. Good decision to back Ken Capstick's legal action against the NUM over his unfair dismissal. Good to see too that we've won over £350,000 for members in the last few weeks. It clearly pays to be union.

Finance Committee also had a long discussion about rule changes to enable our Group Chapels (groups of workplace reps all owned by the same parent company) a greater role in the democracy of the union. These are the industrial activists of the union and we need their voice at our conference and at all levels of the union. No-one disagrees with that, the big debate was over voting systems. Do we say you can only vote by a show of hands at a physical meeting or do we enable active participation through Skype, text voting, video conferencing or any other form of voting. The traditionalists held sway. I think it may be another matter at the Executive next month.

Having to delay my departure to TUC conference because of the BBC dispute. Meeting with BBC followed by emergency reps meeting on Monday. Deal or no deal? All will be revealed on Monday....

Wednesday, September 08, 2010's confidential

Negotiations, emergency reps meetings, more negotiations - the BBC pensions dispute has become all-consuming but since everything is confidential it makes for boring blogging!

In the minutes between BBC meetings I spoke at NUS media conference, spoke at a TUC round-table on civil liberties and attended the union's Development Committee - oh, and passed my driving theory test (50 out of 50 since you ask...).

Now, back to BBC negotiations....