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Journalists to ballot on BBC pensions strike

Unite, NUJ and Bectu union members battle to defend rights of Beeb workers

Members of the National Union of Journalists, Unite and Bectu working at the BBC will be balloted on industrial action after the corporation refused to withdraw its proposals for pension reform.

In a meeting this morning, representatives from the three unions failed to convince BBC managers to withdraw their plans for wholesale pension reform.

The NUJ, Bectu and Unite will now prepare for a vote in the coming weeks while officials continue to meet BBC managers and attempt to thrash out a settlement.
Today's meeting followed an ultimatum put to the BBC earlier this week by the three unions that unless it dropped its proposal by 21 July thousands of staff would be balloted for possible action.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: "We're obviously disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that the BBC is taking such a hard line over this issue.
"Without question, the Government is paying extremely close attention to the development of this dispute, given their plans for wholesale pension reform across the public sector.

"The NUJ will do everything possible to defend the hard-earned pension rights of BBC staff."

The BBC released details last month of its planned pensions overhaul to tackle a £2bn deficit in the fund. Proposals include closing the final-salary scheme to new joiners and capping contributions of existing members.

Staff have also been angered by a below-inflation flat rate pay increase of £475 for staff paid up to £37,726 a year.

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said: "BBC management have shown complete contempt for staff in the face of the clear message from staff attending the series of consultative meetings that have taken place over the past two weeks.

"Those meetings have seen repeated votes - unanimous in almost all cases - calling on the staff unions to ballot for industrial action should the BBC continue to pursue its plans for a blatant pension robbery."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We continue to believe that the proposals we are making will deliver a pension scheme that is sustainable, affordable and flexible for BBC staff and the licence fee payer.

"We know that staff have concerns about the proposed changes but we will continue to listen and try to address these during the 90-day consultation period."

Oliver Luft writes for the Press Gazette

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.