BBC Lay Reps blog

Archive for June, 2008

Lay Reps Annual Report 2008: Tony Lennon

Report of Chair Ventures SDC

The past year

One of the recurrent themes of the last year has been the BBC’s relentless drive towards outsourced provision of a wide range of services, and its willingness to put suppliers under acute pressure to cut costs.

In the space of 12 months the Corporation has attempted, unsuccessfully, to dispose of BBC Resources Ltd, switched its back office Finance functions to a new supplier which processes most of the work in India, announced plans to TUPE transfer into the private sector nearly 100 regional facilities management staff, and has renegotiated all or part of its contracts with suppliers of technology and existing out-sourced facilities management.

In an interesting contradiction of this trend, BBC Worldwide effectively brought the publisher Lonely Planet into public ownership by buying the company for a rumoured £70 million. The move left observers mystified as to the synergies that Worldwide hoped to extract, and moved commercial rivals in the media sector to complain that, once again, the BBC was using Licence funding to distort their markets.

Membership has remained relatively stable across these areas, ending the period slightly below the figure of last year. One explanation for this is that the core of ex-BBC staff who have been TUPE transferred out of the BBC, or simply sold off, is gradually dwindling as they depart through natural wastage or retirement, and in many cases they are not even being replaced, denying the union a recruitment opportunity.

Resources Ltd

Company sale

Top of the agenda throughout the period has been the threatened sale of this wholly-owned subsidiary. A previous attempt to sell the company was rebuffed after industrial action in 2005, when the union won a stay of execution until the beginning of 2007. In the event, the BBC did not begin the sale process in earnest until August 2007, when bidders were first invited to step forward.

BECTU has been in dialogue with the BBC about the impact of the sale on staff since November 2006, when demands were tabled for a BBC-style final salary pension scheme to be maintained, conditions of service to remain intact for a period after the sale, and a promise of no compulsory redundancies, again for a set period.

By the time that talks became more intense in late 2007, the future closure of TV Centre, Resources’ main operating base, had been announced, throwing great uncertainty into the sale process. Observers were unconfident that Studios and Post Production, two of the company’s three big business units, would be attractive to bidders who now knew that their premises would close at roughly the same time as two crucial customers, Sport and Childrens, moved to Salford.

The sale process began to drag at this point, and the announcement of a shortlist of bidders, planned for early October, slipped to the third week of December, putting paid to any hope the BBC had of completing a sale by year-end.

Contrary to rumours that few or no bidders had expressed an interest, the BBC told BECTU on December 19 2007 that one bidder had passed the shortlising hurdles with an offer to buy the whole company, and separate bidders existed for each of the three business units, OBs, Studios, and Post. All bidders were reported to be offering final salary pension schemes.

Further delays became apparent in the ensuing months, and it was not until March 6th that the BBC announced the break-up of the company, with the OB business unit being sold to Satellite Information Services, Studios remaining firmly in BBC ownership, and talks continuing with a “credible bidder” for Post.

At the time of writing those talks were ostensibly still continuing, but with little apparent progress. Meanwhile, the sale of OBs was completed in the early hours of April 1 2008, for an undisclosed sum. OB members left BBC employment with a guarantee that conditions of service would remain unchanged for three years, no compulsory redundancies would be effected for one year, and a promise that all current staff would be eligible to join a newly-created final salary pension scheme within SIS. They also won a guarantee that BBC redundancy terms, and pension augmentation for staff older than 49 made redundant, would apply until the end of 2012, a demand tabled by the union to protect the interests of members, mostly in Studios and Post, should TV Centre close after the pension changes in April 2011.

The quid pro quo for these guarantees, demanded it seems by the BBC but not necessarily the purchaser, was that BECTU would enter an agreement stipulating that any disputes over issues to do with the staff guarantees would be settled via pendulum arbitration rather than strike action. Negotiators felt that the issues covered by this side agreement were so black and white that any arbitrator would have to find in the union’s favour should, for example, the new employer announce compulsory redundancies, or substantively change conditions of service, during the protected periods. On this basis members were advised to accept the pendulum arbitration agreement, and a postal ballot of OB members yielded a majority of 82% in favour of the full package of guarantees.

In late April the union was in constructive discussions with SIS about a recognition agreement, and industrial relations at the unit’s base in Langley, Slough, looked set to carry on as normal.

We are currently in dispute with the BBC about the predicament of staff in Studios and Post who were not sold off, who may face redundancy at a point in the future when the enhanced pensions on offer to those over 49 will not be available. The union has also demanded that in the increasingly unlikely event of Post being sold, staff must be given guarantees at least as good as those secured by their colleagues in OBs.

Following a meeting last month (April) BECTU is optimistic that the BBC will offer an agreement that ensures that anyone in Resources affected by the closure of TV Centre, or the move to Salford, will be given full BBC redundancy treatement, although the BBC is likely to demand in return that other parts of the global BBC agreement on job cuts this year will be applied, for example the revised UPA arrangements for new starters. At the time of writing the union was still waiting for the BBC to confirm this position.

Resources pay 2007

We submitted a claim on behalf of Resources members for RPI plus 3%, with a £1,000 minimum, as well as improvements in leave, trainees’ pay, and other detailed demands.

After a delay in talks, thought to be in part because the BBC was concentrating on the sale of the company, negotiations kicked off on March 12 2007, only weeks before the Resources pay anniversary date of April 1. Over the course of the next two weeks, it became apparent that Resources were tied to the BBC’s central bargaining agenda, despite being a separate bargaining unit, and had budgeted only 2.5% for a pay increase, below the prevailing rate of inflation.

Following discussion among union reps, BECTU then called for talks on Resources pay to be amalgamated, or at least run synchronously, with the main BBC pay talks, since there was clearly an intimate relation between the Coporation’s main pay negotiations, and the flexibility open to Resources to make a sensible offer.

Management proposed that the planned 2.5% increase should be “paid on account” with immediate effect, to reward staff during the period from their pay anniversay, and the conclusion of BBC pay talks. The offer was rejected, on fears that any interim increase could easily become the actual rise for the full 12-month term.

Pay talks proceeded with the BBC centrally, and Resources members were eventually offered the same 4% rise that was offered across the Corporation, with a 2% rise in the subsequent year. There was lengthy discussion about the change of pay anniversary proposed by management, entailing a move from April 2008 to August 2008. Eventually Resources agreed a flat-rate increase of £400 in April 2008 to all staff to “buy out” the anniversary date. The offer was ultimately accepted by 79% of members in a postal ballot.

Costume & Wig Store

In Summer 2007 BBC Resources Ltd began talks with BECTU on the future of this small department, explaining that an impending move of premises, with an expected higher rent, would tip it into permanent losses. The union was given access to the management accounts for the department on a confidential basis, which confirmed the gloomy economic picture.

Management themselves devised, but then rejected, a retrenchement plan which involved cutting the stock, and the staff, by about half, but retaining 75% of custom, this improving margins. The main reason for rejecting the plan was the fear that this intiative might prove to be short-lived, with the section continuing to lose money, threatening another debilitating round of redundancies in the next year or two.

Members in Costume & Wig, all of whom were well acquainted with the figures and business issues confronting the department, agreed with this analysis, and opted reluctantly for a full closure, originally expected at the end of 2007. Discussions were held on redundancy payments, re-training opportunities, and pay-in-lieu of notice departures. Redeployment elsewhere in the BBC was not viewed by members as a serious option, given the specialism of their roles, althought management did offer assistance to those who were interested.

A buyer was then sought for the stock of Costume & Wig Store, and dialogue with one specific bidder continued past the year end, and into January. Possible deadline dates of January 31st, then February 29th were proposed by management. Representations were made on behalf of members about the uncertainty this was causing. Union efforts were overtaken by events when, negotiations with a prospective purchaser fell through, and staff were given notice that their employment would be terminated in the middle of February, with pay-in-lieu until the end of March.

Eventually the costumes were sold off, most of them to Angels Costumiers, with the uniforms being sold to specialist costume house Foxtrot. Most of the wigs were sold to a BECTU members who had been wig supervisor, and has now set up a new hire business.

Post Production Versioning TUPE

In April 2007 Resources management revealed that a long-standing contract let by Red Bee Media for the department to undertake versioning work for UKTV had been lost as a result of Red Bee deciding to move the work in-house. From the outset management stated that TUPE would apply, meaning that any staff within Post who worked “wholly or mainly” on the versioning contract would be transferred to Red Bee.

Had this transfer offered exactly the same benefits as available in BBC Resources, this may not have been a highly controversial move, given the uncertainty posed by the impending sale of the company. However, although Red Bee acknowledged it would have to replicate the terms and conditions of transferrees inherited from Resources, the company was unwilling to allow them access to the final-salary pension scheme set up when it bought BBC Broadcast in 2005.

This represented a severe detriment to the 7 Post staff identified as working on the contract, and the precedent the transfer could have set led BECTU to threaten a strike ballot across the whole of Resources Ltd should the affected members be transferred into new jobs without final salary pensions.

Although the company itself was minded to go ahead with the transfer, partly because it had used the TUPE rules as a bargaining counter in commercial negotiations over the contract – “take this work off us and you’ll have to take the staff as well” – the threat of a strike, coupled with lobbying of senior managers within the BBC itself, led Resources to concede that any transfers would have to be voluntary, and eventually three of the affected staff opted to move, knowing that their pension entitlement would be limited to (an admittedly pretty good) money purchase, defined contribution, scheme.

Those staff who opted not to move were offered severance based on standard redundancy terms, although two editors with long service were confronted with a choice between redeployment, or a severance payment of only 12 months, less than they would have received under the redundancy formula.

Siemens

Siemens pay 2007/8

Last year’s claim for RPI plus a flat £1,000 increase was met with an opening offer of 2.5%, to apply for 9 months. Staff in the telecoms subsidiary SECL are in a separate bargaining unit, and were offered 3% for a full year. The offer fell far short of the claim, and a swift ballot, which overwhelmingly rejected it, brought an improved proposal for a 4% rise in August 2007, followed by another increase in January 2008 of 2.15%. Siemens promised that the January increase would be reviewed if inflation were above 3% by the time of payment.

Members were balloted again, and a majority of 95% accepted the new offer. As expected, inflation was well above 3% in January this year, and BECTU pressed the company to reopen pay talks. The discussions were held only days after Siemens announced that staff would not be receiving any bonuses this year, but would be compensated with £20 worth of shopping vouchers – an inauspicious beginning to talks.

Siemens initially refused to budge from the 2.15% figure, and a consultative ballot yielded an 80% majority against the offer, as well as a 75% vote in favour of an industrial action ballot unless the rise was improved. A meeting was due just before conference on May 7th where BECTU and PCS, the two unions in the bargaining unit, were expecting to discover whether more was on the table.

TV Centre switchboard closure

Siemens Enterprise Communications Limited (SECL) announced in March that all EBX operators jobs were to close along with their colleague who work as Directory Enquiry Agents. The company had reviewed that part of its contract with the BBC, and apparently decided that it could not deliver the service profitably.

A total of 53 staff, mostly BECTU members, were affected by the plan, which moves 30 operators posts to an existing call centre in Middlesborough, and 12 service desk posts to another in Wellingborough. Almost all staff were in situations where they could not easily relocate, one option on offer, and therefore opted for redundancy.

The change is already underway, with a number of ex-BBC staff in the unit remaining on the books until the end of July to offer “assisted running” – showing the replacement staff how to do the job. Early reports indicate that the company which has taken over the BBC’s London EBX contract may have underestimated the complexity of the task, vindicating union warnings about possible reductions in service quality.

Project Next

This BBC-initiated review of technology activities not yet performed by Siemens began early in 2007, and ended with a joint working party involving senior management and BECTU representatives, including me, familiar with areas like IT support and broadcast engineering in News, Nations and Regions, World Service, and Audio and Music.

At one stage over 900 BBC staff were under scrutiny, facing possible TUPE transfers to Siemens, under the terms of the BBC’s Technical Framework Agreement with the company, signed in 2004 when BBC Technology was sold.

Halfway through the review, management made a strategic decision that some, or all, of the activities would be kept in-house if a business plan could be constructed to offer savings. The joint working party shared some confidential data about the BBC’s current activities, and eventually a plan emerged which could cut up to 140 jobs by 2014.

Most of the cuts are either due to efficiency through new technology, both in IT and broadcast engineering, or the result of News, Radio, and World Service all amalgamating technical facilities in the new London BH when it opens. Representatives were willing to agree the plan on the understanding that the cuts could be phased in ways that would avoid compulsory redundancies.

DWP contract

In March 2008 Siemens announced that it had lost a contract with the Department for Work and Pensions, which was worth £59 million, and should have run from 2006 to 2010. Both the Ministry and the company were cagey about the reason for Siemens being dropped, but it led to Siemens in Germany issuing a profit warning shortly afterwards.

Management in the UK’s Siemens IT Solutions and Services, which lost the contract, have already warned unions that this could be an extremely tough year as a result.

Red Bee Media

Red Bee pay 2007/8

Talks opened this year with an offer from the company of a two-year deal giving a 3% increase in August 2008, followed by another 3% a year later. UPA payments and the floors/roofs of grades were to be frozen under the proposal. Representatives rejected the offer out of hand, citing the high inflation rate as the reason.

Further pressure on Red Bee encouraged the company to limit the offer to one year, and increase the rise to 3.5%, an improvement that was accepted by almost 80% of members in a consultative ballot. With the August anniversary only months away, a claim for 2008 was submitted in April, calling for an increase of RPI plus 1%, and an extension of the guarantees on staff terms and conditions which were made in 2004, and are due to expire later this year.

Playout rotas

Management have continued efforts to alter rota patterns in the Playout area, as a means of reducing the Late Night/Early Morning Transport bill. BECTU declared a dispute when the company hired a team of outside consultants to advise on new patterns, and Red Bee responded by trying to deal directly with affected staff, instead of using the normal collective bargaining machinery.

Eventually, with union assistance, new rotas were drafted which avoided all of the problems inherent in the original management plan. Liaison with the company on other bargaining business has been constructive and amicable, although Red Bee have emphasised that economic times are tightening up, and their targets for growth are beginning to look ambitious.

Worldwide

Worldwide pay 2007/8

With a pay anniversary date of July, members in Worldwide were in discussion about pay ahead of the BBC’s decision to go for a two year deal in the rest of the Corporation. By April the company was offering a 3.5% increase, with a further 1% set aside to fund merit pay, which is not guaranteed to all staff, but usually benefits a significant proportion of them. Members were willing to accept this offer which fell reasonably close to inflation in mid-2007.

Hopes that Worldwide Ltd members escaped the BBC’s 2% increase this year may prove to be unfounded however. After two pay meetings this so far the company’s response to a union pay claim for a 6% increase with a minimum payment of £1,200 has been to offer a 2% increase in July.

The uncanny similarity to the BBC’s pay position this year is explained by Worldwide as an effort to match the policies of their “main client”. In other words WW management have been told to toe the line over the 2% increase. Negotiators were hoping in early May to hear if the management would soften their line on pay, or find some other way to pad out the 2008 pay award, possibly with a significant increase in paternity pay.

Other activites

During the 2007/8 period I have participated in negotiations in News Division at various levels, and also talks about the move of Kingswood Warren staff to London W12 and Salford Quays. I have also been part of the BECTU national joint council team, bargaining on a range of Corporation-wide issues including pay, conditions of service, and non-contractual benefits.

I have continued to monitor pension developments at the BBC, with assistance from the staff-elected trustees, and have also been a core member of an industry contact group, consisting of employers, councils, and training organisations, which is hoping to secure a media-related legacy use for the Olympic International Broadcasting Centre at Stratford, which could provide new employment after the Games, to coincide with the closure of TV Centre.

In the last 12 months I have dealt with 23 personal cases which required multiple meetings with management under procedure, and roughly as many again in which problems were resolved through informal means, or members simply needed enough advice to pursue solutions themselves. I have made full use of the Dispute Resolution Regulations where appropriate, and have successfully encouraged managers to terminate staff via compromise agreements in every case where dismissal was threatened for behaviour, competence, or timekeeping.

Since my last report I have coordinated several of BECTU’s policy statements and submissions on radio microphones, the future of the TV spectrum, and HD television services, and have represented the interests of members at a number of public events.

I produced 10 editions of the BBC Informer newsletter during the period, and continue to provide stories for the BECTU and bectubbc.org.uk websites, albeit on a reduced basis now that the union has a full-time Communications Officer.

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

Lay Reps Annual Report 2008: Jane Perry

Report of BBC Representative NEC, NJC and Chair Disabled Members’ Network Committee

NEC

The National Executive Committee is the place I represent BBC Members’ issues across our union. It is also the place from which we have access to Labour Ministers and MPs. The purpose of such access is to represent the best interests of the BBC, as put forward by those who work for the BBC, as opposed to those who ‘manage’ it. It is particularly important to lobby for the approval of BBC Local – new jobs and investment if it goes ahead: more redundancies if it doesn’t. It is vital that we continue to vocally oppose top slicing. Public broadcasting must be properly funded: it can not be allowed to become case of robbing ‘Peter’ to fund ‘Paul.’

National Joint Council – negotiating at national level

When “Creative Futures” negotiations started I fully expected them to breakdown rapidly considering just how far BBC management’s aims were from the joint unions’. After a lengthy game of brinkmanship, seemingly against themselves, BBC management finally came to an agreement, with us, that as a democratic trade union had to be put to our members.

A very high level of effort has since been maintained to rid management’s plans of any compulsory redundancies. Here mention must be made of reps Ian Black, for Factual and Learning, and Allan Johnston, in BBC Children’s, who have managed to reduce the number of those under threat, of compulsory redundancy, from hundreds to a “handful.” Such effort will continue until we reach zero.

Recruitment

I have been recruiting in Leeds, Hull, Manchester and Drama Village Birmingham. I hope to manage a lot more recruitment in the coming year and particularly to work on recruiting more activists.

Two areas of particular concern

The first is Workloads: just how much extra work is being undertaken by those who remain employed by the BBC. The second is the move out of London. New jobs and new investment in the nations and regions must be applauded. However we need to ensure the policy is credible rather than a spin exercise whereby, large numbers of our existing membership are relocated, just so BBC management can ‘appear’ to have created a more ‘nationwide’ workforce. In reality, with some genres, all management appear to be planning is a re-shuffle of the deck. For example management are considering the relocation of Casualty from Bristol to Cardiff, Holby from Elstree to Bristol and Doctors from Birmingham to Manchester!

Surely the BBC should be looking for programmes that are developed, produced and made in the nations and regions, by the nations and regions, to then be made available to our whole audience? If not then what does that say BBC management really think of talent outside London? That it is only good enough to make programmes developed, produced and imposed by London?

Also BBC management must not be allowed to use “Out of London” as the “cheap” option expecting more “flexibility” from a workforce, outside London, for less pay and worse conditions.

My particular areas of responsibility as lay official

Vision

The shadow of what happened last year, with the closure of BBC Children’s Education, loomed large over “Creative Futures” negotiations. The complete lack of imagination or commitment to the redeployment of the last 3 staff facing compulsory redundancies was not something BECTU was about to let BBC management forget especially as the same attitudes seemed prevalent in Vision management. The result, via the work of our supervisor official Helen Ryan and the reps Ian and Allan, has been both constructive and imaginative…….so far! However there are still handfuls of compulsory redundancies that need resolution.

There have been knock-on advantages in some managers actually working with the trade unions. Communication has improved in some areas and local liaison meetings have started once more between BECTU and BBC Children’s. A close watch will need to be kept on the movement of staff in Children’s to Salford: flexibility and alternatives for those who do not wish to go.

Elstree

The greatest pleasure, in across union working, has been the launch of the freelance recognition campaign at Eastenders. Freelance recognition at the BBC is in EVERYONE’s interests. As a member of BBC staff I have increasingly been aware of freelance craft input being used as the ‘cheap’ option. Freelance working for the BBC should be a choice not something imposed by management to downsize its own responsibilities and have its budget’s subsidised by freelance workers low wages and poor conditions.

BECTU has freelance recognition in Scotland, at The Natural History Unit in Bristol; Eastenders is next then maybe somewhere near you. Please help out with such campaigns when they come your way – they really are in your interests too.

I&A

There are still 2 areas facing VfM cuts. These areas are in on-line ordering where management are looking to close 2 posts. Likewise admin roles at the Broadcast Centre are to be reduced by 2. Press cuttings face outsourcing. BECTU will fight any enforced TUPE transfers. Hopefully, if management have learnt anything, then these issues will be resolved constructively by working with BECTU.

I&A branch have recruited new activists who are looking at new areas and new ways in which to work. For example I&A should have it’s first “Learning at Work Day” with branch learning rep James Coupland at I&A Windmill Road site.

Norwich

Agreement was finally reached concerning the single person operation of the U-pod. The first draft excluded, “with questions asked from the remote studio.” These seven words were hard fought for at English Regions when negotiating the single person operating guide lines. Norwich management duly corrected their omission.

This may sound a bit pedantic but attention to detail is how accidents are avoided and members protected. In this instance members are prevented from taking on too many roles to remain safe when working alone. Thanks must go to Mark Scrimshaw for his tenacity on the subject!

Wales: Cardiff and Bangor

Regarding “Creative Futures” management say they need 70 redundancies over 2 years. 140 employees have volunteered so BECTU can see no reason why the “required” redundancies should not easily be achieved without any compulsories. There is still one person under threat from VfM but we remain hopeful of permanent redeployment. Cardiff HR have been left in no doubt of the strength and commitment of BECTU Cardiff branch. Bangor branch has a new rep and I will be working with the branch to support and strengthen their branch structure.

Disabled Members Network Committee

The most important work of this committee at the moment is recruitment. In our competitive industry disability is still largely taboo. Workers do not declare because they are either, afraid of the effect on their careers, or they have a condition they do not consider “disabling enough” to count as yet. Workers with such conditions and often ‘soldier’ on regardless of the fact they have a legal right to reasonable adjustments that ease that extra effort and safeguard their health and safety.

The DMNC is starting a recruitment campaign called “There is NOTHING WRONG with being DISABLED” to try to raise awareness. Disabled workers now have rights and many of our members will be disabled, as defined in law, at some point or have dependants who are. It is important, as a trade union, that we do not let the BBC make ‘special cases’ of disabled workers who tick the right boxes at the expense of those who don’t. Also awareness amongst activists needs to be raided as Health and Safety and Disability can often work in tandem to the benefit of all members.

Personal Cases

Grievances: 7 Complaints of Bullying: 5 Disciplinaries: 3 Informal resolutions: 10

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

Lay Reps Annual Report 2008: Dan Cooke

Report of Chair Nations and Regions SDC

This report covers the areas to which I am allocated, which does not include the whole of the English Regions or any of the Nations.

In my previous reports, I have criticised Management at BBC South West for poor Industrial Relations. It would seem that our efforts have begun to bear fruit, with the HRLP recently holding out an olive branch to our Branch Reps to find ways to improve their working relationship. I hope this initiative is successful!

Meetings

In Audio and Music Division, I’ve been dealing with a Creative Future related closure and restructuring of Radio Resources in Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester. A poorly devised plan, poorly implemented by Managers who seemed unprepared. This is still work in progress, with a possibility of compulsory redundancies still lurking in the wings. Also in Birmingham, Radio 2 moved their weekday overnight programming down to London, relocating 4 staff (volunteers). The first few days were not without problems. Those remaining are still not sure what they will be working on.

In English Regions there was a flurry of meetings around Creative Future proposals, mainly affecting Open Centres and Buses. Work is still ongoing, but at this stage two bus drivers have been served final notice.

In World Service a large part of the business has been negotiating the launch of the Arabic TV service. Initial lengthy meetings over Rotas and Job Descriptions for Journalist grades were exhausting. When we started the technical/operation discussions things went more smoothly. In the latter part of 2007, as the service started it’s dry runs, issues over technical staff rotas arose. This was resolved to the satisfaction of the members, with an interim solution. It proved a fruitful recruiting opportunity too.

The reorganisation of the Broadcast Support Service at Bush House, which brought together Maintenance Engineering and IT support, started in late 2006. There were several meetings in 2007, and there are still outstanding issues.

In BBC Monitoring at Caversham I attended the Branch AGM as well as formal Liaison meetings. We need to recruit and strengthen the Branch at Caversham since it has dwindled in numbers over the last few years.

In Sport, the BBC discovered that there were huge disparities between TV and Radio staff’s overtime claims. This led to a review, which discovered that TV staff were working to local arrangements. We were advised that Sport would come into line with BBC core conditions, and that would have an impact on TV staff earnings, particularly when on OBs.

At a meeting to discuss this, the Unions proposed special arrangements for the Olympics and other pre-planned sporting events in the near future, where staff could not now withdraw. This was agreed. As a result of these changes however, other issues are becoming significant, such as paid travel time when staying at Hotels many miles away from the venues (to save on accommodation costs). It may be some time before this matter is resolved, and it may even go into dispute.

In BBC Workplace (renamed from BBC Property), two events have been playing out this year. Firstly a reorganisation of the London based project team. We have low membership, and only three members were affected. In the end all were resettled in new posts.

Workplace also manage the Facilities Management contracts with Johnson Controls International and Hayden Building Management Ltd. The latter covers English Regional sites. However, not all sites were 100% HBML. Workplace instituted a review (called Project Windsor!!) with the intention of outsourcing all remaining areas to Hadens.

Despite vociferous complaints and well reasoned arguments from our members, which we put to the management, it came as no surprise to learn in March that the outsourcing would go ahead. 90 or so people including Security in Birmingham, Front of House and FM staff in Bristol, Catering and the FM Call centre staff in Manchester, Cleaning staff in Norwich, Southampton, Lincoln and Derby, and Catering staff in Newcastle and Leeds would all transfer to HBML. BBC Woodnorton will be switched from a HBML contract to JCI.

BECTU has made stringent demands over the TUPE conditions, and at the time of writing we are due to meet formally to hear what Pension provision is offered as well as a response to our other terms. This process has been notable for a lack of Management co-ordination, an inability to understand what consultation means, and the lack of ability to use plain English in their communications. It has been agreed that there will be a 90 day consultation period, which suggest a transfer of staff would take place in June 2008.

Project NEXT, the process to retain the remaining technology areas in-house, has also been progressing. Having saved our members from being outsourced to Siemens, the BBC broke new ground by involving BECTU in confidential working parties to discuss and help shape their proposal to the Board to save money and reorganise Broadcast Technology through to 2015. We knew that post reductions were inevitable as part of this process, but actively engaged with a view to mitigating these, and hoping to avoid any compulsory redundancies.

In January 2008 the headlines of the plan were made public to affected staff. I am now the lead official in the next phase, with work streams on various different aspects of the plan. The first tangible event is the announcement that Bristol CTA (switching centre) will be closing by October 08. The plan will seek post reductions, but so far we do not envisage any compulsory redundancies.

As a result of the close examination of the technology arrangements, News are re-organising the way their News Helpdesk is run. This will mean longer hours of operation and hence a change to the Rotas. It’s early days in this process, but members are already unhappy.

Personal cases

I met and supported some 21 members at 48 meetings. A number of other cases are pending responses to Grievances or Appeals.

The dissolution of Case Management to the various divisions of the BBC has led to mixed results. In some cases, the quality and speed of response has greatly improved, in others it’s fallen to an all time low. It would appear now to be very individual dependant.

As part of the January dispute avoidance agreement, one of the working parties with the BBC will be covering case management and HR. I have been asked to lead for BECTU in this area.

Pensions

As a Member Elected Trustee of the BBC Pension Fund, I attended 22 days worth of meetings in the period of this review. The introduction of SmartPensions led to a flurry of correspondence from members, confused by the BBC’s documentation and communications. Whilst BECTU officers struggled to get clarity from the BBC, Member Trustees made it clear at trustee Board that the poor quality of documentation was not acceptable. The Director of BBC People said he “noted” the criticism. BECTU has now sent clarification to members.

Posted by Dan Cooke

Filed under: Lay Reps report

Lay Reps Annual Report 2008: Mark Scrimshaw

Report of Chair BBC Division

A year of highs and lows, anxiety and consternation for members.

Our biggest high was in the not inconsiderable achievement of mitigating the number of compulsory redundancies cause by the draconian “Value for Money” cuts.

Many officials and reps worked incredibly hard to achieve this, although it would be fair to say that we all felt extremely disappointed in the attitude of management in the Children’s department who seemed totally unconcerned at the amount of stress and worry they were causing their staff.

It was a lesson we would not forget when the next wave of cuts “Creative Futures” – came along even before VfM had finished. The DG Mark Thompson had promised us back in 2005 when VfM was announced that he wanted to make this one swingeing cut so that he wouldn’t have to come back for more. Well, another promise broken.

And so we were totally confident in going back to the membership for backing for industrial action once the BBC stated that many of the things they’d announced – cuts in UPA provision, changes to the Pension Scheme – were “non-negotiable”.

What followed was a phoney war with the BBC pretending to hold talks but without discussing anything, until as the date of our announcement of the ballot result neared they suddenly kicked into action. And with 3 hours to go before we called a strike they finally conceded on all the points we wanted – not everything, but a lot, and an agreement resulted which got the backing of over 92% of our membership.

True validation of our stance against these cuts, against compulsories, against imposed changes to Terms & Conditions – and against the instances of intransigent management. This time it was Vision who were being ridiculously unco-operative, so we ensured that this division had significant targets to reach written into the agreement before we’d endorse it. And to be fair to them, under the watchful eye of our officials, Vision have delivered a very positive attempt to reduce compulsories under severe targets imposed by the centre, and with the catastrophic impact of the WoCC on inhouse production now being clearly seen.

Away from the big cuts, it’s been up and down across the BBC – for every satisfactory resolution of a problem, another grievance against management is registered; and for every member for whom we manage to gain an agreeable outcome, another is left disgruntled and alienated by poor managers with scant regard for their staff’s feelings. A major problem for those of us who spend a fair amount of time dealing with individual members’ grievances, appeals and disciplinaries, is the variable (I’m being diplomatic here!) quality of middle management, HR officers and HR Case Managers. Greg Dyke’s drive to train them better does not appear to have borne fruit.

Industrially, we’ve negotiated some excellent agreements:

  • On Desktop Editing in London for instance where the fight to find the balance between rational technological improvements and kneejerk “it’ll let us cut jobs” responses is being fought; on the lightweight satellite vehicles being piloted in many forms across English Regions, and on which we now have a generic agreement covering quite clearly which broadcast instances allow the deployment of a single operator;
  • On the “palm pilots” implements, the first of which (the XDA) was actually developed by a BECTU member in Radio Lincoln and which are now proving a boon to many staff out in the field whose travel requirements are being cut by the ability to send in sound and images from on site;
    On the restructuring of newsrooms which for the first time have seen technical people employed on the same scale as senior journalists, as grade 8s;
  • On the coming “Slice’n'Dice”, when a technological ability does not mean good news – but we’re clear that if the BBC want this new facility to be widely deployed, they’ll need to find the money to pay for it rather than simply dump it as an extra task on the rota.

Our message to management?

BECTU members want to be involved in discussing changes – whether technology or resources – at an early stage so that we can input our considerable knowledge and expertise, and hopefully avoid some of the errors of the past when management have bought various pigs in sundry pokes, and we will actively engage in order to do this BUT the days of the freebie are over – you want our members to do extra work, either employ extra people to do it, or drop something you do now to make room.

In the coming year the battle will be on the same front – proper jobs with proper training for proper programmes.

I represent BECTU on several committees looking closely at what will happen when the BBC moves almost 2000 jobs to Salford. Our demands are that while we support new jobs and new investment in the north west, members in London affected by the moves must be given realistic alternatives – relocation, retraining or voluntary redundancy. And those who do move, and those recruited locally, must have proper contracts and conditions. That also applies to those freelances who will get work in the production houses and studios which will litter the mediacity:uk site; BECTU now has a multi-divisional committee which draws together all the experience and concerns of the BBC, IP and RPD divisions.

I also believe BECTU will need to fight on two fronts over the bbcLocal plans, now going inexorably through the Public Value Tests and the BBC Trust protocols. Firstly, we will need to deploy any political clout we have to help overcome the opposition of the independent commercial interests, because it means 400-600 jobs for us. And secondly, when bbcLocal does get the go-ahead, we need to ensure that those jobs are not cheap, multi-skilled alternatives to employing professional trained operatives, but rather are employed on properly negotiated contracts and terms & conditions. But overall we believe that bbcLocal will be a big bonus, offering many new jobs and showing a significant financial and people investment in a previously unglamorous part of the BBC – local radio and new media combined.

So big battles ahead, but with the terrific teams behind us, I’m confident we can do a real job for the membership.

I’d like to thank all the officials at Clapham who’ve helped me as Chair of the Division, but especially Luke Crawley and his successor as SO Helen Ryan, who’ve been personally extraordinarily generous with their time and advice; and I’d also like to praise the other 3 full-time seconded lay officers – BECTU is extremely fortunate to have people of the calibre of Tony Lennon, Dan Cooke and Jane Perry prepared to work for its members up and down the country; and finally thanks to a very supportive Divisional Committee – never short of a good debate or an interesting angle – and a powerful and committed NJC squad; and to my Vice Chair, Charlotte Simon, in whose hands I’m never worried about leaving a meeting!

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

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