Strike time for BBC journos

MUMBAI: Journalists at the BBC staged a 48-hour strike on Friday and Saturday to oppose proposed cuts to their pension scheme.

Another strike is set for 15-16 November. Further strike dates, including Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and New Years Eve/New Years Day, are now under consideration.

The National Union Of Journalists (NUJ) says that for many journalists the new pension scheme will mean being tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds worse off in retirement. It says that the BBC‘s rationale for the move - that a potential ?2 billion hole in the pensions fund means that they have no choice - has been blown apart by reports they‘ve commissioned from independent financial experts, which show the figure to be closer to ?1bn. The NUJ has outlined its approach to dealing with the deficit.

The NUJ says that it has consistently offered to suspend strike action, if BBC management agree to negotiate a deal once the state of the funds is properly assessed next April, instead of forcing through a new scheme now. "At that time, we will all finally know what the actual deficit is - rather than an inflated guesstimate."

The NUJ says that right now, it is not asking the BBC to spend any more money than the BBC has already committed to spend on CAB2011. In fact, for less money it could well be possible to retain the existing scheme with a longer period to repay the deficit - just as many large UK companies have done. That, the NUJ says, would deliver winners all round – better value for money for the licence-fee payer, fair pensions for BBC staff, and an amicable settlement for BBC management.

However BBC DG Mark Thompson has held his ground and says that the new pension plans are fair and have already been modified after talks with staff.

NUJ CEO Jeremy Dear, though, says that the BBC has got so many things wrong, from executive pay to the freezing of the licence fee as well as the cuts to journalists‘ pensions.

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