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Unions warn BBC strike ballot likely as talks breakdown

Pay and pensions measures 'unacceptable', says NUJ.

Unions warned yesterday that a strike ballot over pay and pensions at the BBC seemed increasingly likely after talks with management broke down.

The BBC announced plans to overhaul its pension scheme earlier this week aimed at tackling a £2bn deficit in the fund.

The proposal included closing the final-salary scheme to new joiners and capping contributions of existing members to one per cent growth a year.

The BBC joint unions - the National Union of Journalists, Bectu and Unite - said last night they had been unable to reach an agreement with BBC on the 2010/11 pay review and warned it could lead to strike action.

In addition to the proposal to change pension arrangements, staff at the BBC have been angered by a below-inflation flat rate pay increase of £475 for staff paid up to £37,726 a year.

The NUJ said last night more than a third of BBC journalists will receive nothing, as it accused the BBC of a "pensions robbery" and an "unacceptable" pay cut.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said: "At a time of yet more job cuts and ever-increasing workloads, BBC management have launched an audacious pensions grab.

"A third of BBC staff are to be rewarded with a pay freeze, the rest will receive the equivalent of one per cent. It is unacceptable, unfair and no way to reward hard work and dedication. For all staff it amounts to a real terms pay cut.

"What's more the BBC refuses to rule out a pay freeze for all staff in 2011."

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, called the £475 offer and the pay freeze for those earning above that "insulting".

"Last year the staff increase was below the rate of inflation. This year the BBC are offering well below inflation and only half of what they received from government in the licence fee settlement," he said.

"Thousands of BBC staff have been made redundant in recent years and management's response to the additional workload now being carried by our members is the offer of a pay freeze or, at best, a token offer which on its own is insulting but which will anger staff on the back of this week's proposed draconian changes to pension provision."

The NUJ said the unions will meet with BBC staff in a series of meetings from 5 July before joint discussions on 19 July.

Dear added: "If the BBC fails to address the real concerns members have over pay and pensions then a ballot for industrial action seems inevitable".

Oliver Luft writes for Press Gazette