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BBC offers unions talks. (Read 2267 times)
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BBC offers unions talks.
Nov 10th, 2010, 10:03pm
Director-general Mark Thompson met officials in bid to end deadlock and avoid another 48-hour shut down

A second wave of BBC strikes planned for Monday and Tuesday could be called off after the corporation said it was prepared to hold fresh talks on controversial pension proposals if the threat of industrial action is lifted.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson met union officials today for talks designed to end the impasse and avoid another 48-hour shut down which would result in programmes being taken off air.

The NUJ, which organised strikes last Friday and Saturday, will meet tomorrow to decide whether to accept the offer of talks and call off the latest round of industrial action.

Thompson met Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting union Bectu, whose members did not strike. Morrissey is acting on behalf of all the unions whose members are affected by the proposed changes to the BBC's generous pension scheme.

Thompson confirmed the BBC was prepared to give ground on two key issues. He is understood to have indicated the BBC would revisit plans to scrap the corporation's pension plan if the current scheme's deficit is less than 1.5bn when it is next valued.

The NUJ claimed the corporation had refused to offer a guarantee that fresh talks would be held unless the deficit fell below 1bn.

The BBC has also said it is willing to allow actuaries acting for the BBC pension fund trustees to decide whether to increase pension payments in the new scheme in future years.

It had previously said that decision would be taken jointly by the BBC board and the Trustees, with the BBC's actuaries taking a final decision if they failed to agree on whether a rise should be approved.

The BBC is describing the changes as clarifications but the NUJ is likely to portray them as substantial concessions.

There is no guarantee that NUJ representatives will call off the two-day strikes at their meeting tomorrow despite the BBC's offer of talks.

The unions are split, with Bectu, which represents the majority of BBC staff, at loggerheads with NUJ members, who are taking a more militant line on the pension changes.

There is an appetite amongst many journalists at the corporation to continue striking in an attempt to inflict further damage on BBC management. Around 60 NUJ reps will meet in London to reach a decision but the vote is expected to be close.

A senior BBC executive said: "The BBC is not prepared to reopen negotiations. The offer is the offer. However, we are happy to meet the unions to clarify some elements of the new arrangements. We will not do this with the spectre of strikes which will effect the public hanging over us".

By James Robinson.

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