Friday, 5 November 2010

Another day, another trade union struggle

NUJ picket, Bush House (BBC World Service), 5 November 2010
Last night's post might have sounded like I was through with trade unions and all that mallarkey, going back to tending my... vegetable patch? I'm not. One very cheering thought last night was that at least the NUJ's 48-hour BBC strike is going ahead. People were walking out of work from midnight.

The strike is effective. Radio 4 were reduced to repeating rather patriotic programmes about Kitchener, Churchill and birdwatching on the Wash this morning instead of the Today programme.

The strike is about pensions; BBC management are exaggerating the extent of the pensions "black hole" and using it as an excuse to reduce pensions - including the ones that people have already paid into. They don't mention, either, that they took a "pensions holiday" and didn't pay in for several years. Meanwhile, senior executives personally are raking it in.

BECTU, NUJ and Unite unions had voted to strike during Tory party conference: it would have affected coverage of David Cameron's speech. And George Osborne's presentation of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Those strikes were called off, partly under political pressure but also because the management had made an improved (or a less bad) offer on pensions.

Lesson: industrial action can help win concessions.The unions asked their members what they thought of the new offer; BECTU and Unite accepted it (although I think their leaderships didn't give them much of a choice). NUJ rejected, with 70% against, hence today's strikes.

The BBC is under political pressure and has had its budget cut. But that doesn't excuse a raid on people's pensions. Good luck to fellow NUJ members striking today and tomorrow!

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