BBC Resources (now Studios & Post Production)
The year began with uncertainty about the future of the company, following the decision to sell off only the Outside Broadcast business unit, and ends with discussions on more than 200 job cuts in the roughly 700-strong workforce.
Members in the Post Production section had to wait for nearly two months from April 2008 before being told that attempts to sell off their part of the business had been abandoned, and they would consequently remain wholly-owned by the BBC. During this time they were not allowed to participate in the BBC’s salary sacrifice, but were belatedly admitted after BECTU intervention.
In October the company announced a reorganisation of its Head Office function, resulting in 13 redundancies among 33 staff. Given the limited number of union members in the area, the cuts were dealt with on a one-by-one basis, and by April 21, the termination date for most redundant staff, the only BECTU members who left had consciously not sought redeployment, with the exception of one late joiner whose unique post was being closed, and another member who was waiting to hear if an attachment to a BBC department had been confirmed.
On December 1st 2008 the company went on to announce 210 proposed job cuts, falling mainly on operational categories, predominantly in the Post Production areas. In local meetings management explained that the cuts were mostly designed to reflect a downturn in workload, much of it due to BBC departments taking work to commercial facilities houses, rather than using the in-house subsidiary. In Post the cuts were exacerbated by a decision to utilise higher levels of freelance staff, putting more permanent staff at jeopardy than the volume reduction implied.
Apart from reductions in most operatational jobs, a number of departments were planned to close completely, including Post activities in Bristol and Birmingham, the London Current Operations area, Post Stock and Hire, and Tape Recycling.
Management agreed at an early stage to conduct a trawl for volunteers, which was heavily oversubscribed in some sections, but left the threat of compulsory redunancies among Post Production Assistants, Colourists, and in all the areas due to close down.
By the time the trawl closed however, BECTU had succeeded in persuading the BBC that TUPE situations existed for staff in Bristol and Birmingham, and for London staff in Current Operations, since their work was clearly going to continue on BBC premises. As a result a total of 71 staff were TUPE-transferred into the BBC on April 1st 2008, thus substantially cutting the number of compulsory redundancies.
In Post Stock & Hire it was agreed with management that their activities should be combined with the Studios Production Store, where a reduction in the use of agency staff would absorb permanent staff threatened with redundancy. A new job description for the combined area was agreed in April. Tape Recycling was integrated into into the new Stores Operation, avoiding another redundancy.
Among Scenic Leading Hands, where the entire category of 10 posts was due to close, 4 volunteered to leave, and 5 were promoted to Supervisor posts, enabling some of the many volunteers at that level to leave. Discussions about the last post are continuing.
In April 2008 management announced that the company was to be renamed as BBC Studios and Post, and that the two separate back-office and management structures were to be merged. We are expecting further announcements of job cuts in these areas.
An increase of 2% was applied to Resources salaries in August 2008, in line with the main BBC two-year pay deal.
Normal business continued with the re-branded SIS OBs in the first full year of the ex-BBC Outside Broadcast business being owned by Satellite Information Services. The company honoured the undertakings given a the time of the sale on April 1st 2008, and made no changes to conditions of service, nor cut any posts by way of compulsory redundancy. The promised final-salary pension scheme was established and two members of the BECTU branch committee were elected as member nominated trustees.
Liaison with the company was sporadic during 2008 as the management were reorganised and integrated into the SIS structure, but routine meetings were resumed in 2009. There were numerous issue-specific meetings between branch representatives and management, covering the integration of back-office functions into SIS, including HR and payroll, and the management restructuring.
During the year the company began planning to install GPS tracking equipment in its fleet of vehicles, and accepted a code of practice drafted by BECTU, setting limits to the use of any data gathered by the equipment. Numerous scheduling and welfare issues were raised with the company during the course of the year.
There were two significant issues in the company during the year – pay and a plan to off-shore the BBC’s IT Server Operations activities.
After lengthy talks, which once again continued well past the pay anniversary date of January 1st, management finally tabled an offer that representatives were prepared to present to members. It consisted of a 1.6% increase, backdated to January 2009, with another 0.9% to follow if a satisfactory outcome was achieved in talks about the introduction of performance-related pay. A ballot closed on March 24th, and the offer was accepted by a large majority.
A proposal to transfer to India the work of just over 60 Siemens staff who manage the BBC’s farms of computer network servers was raised with BECTU in mid-2008. Known as project Big Ben, the plan entailed offering the UK-based staff an opportunity to relocate to India, or to seek redeployment within Siemens, or ultimately to be made redundant.
At first the company management emphasised that the plan had not finally been approved, and BECTU took an early opportunity to raise the issue with the BBC, which had inserted a clause covering off-shoring of its technology provision in the original contract with Siemens.
Dates for the plan to be approved kept slipping during the year until March 2008 when the company announced that the project had been shelved, at least for present, and may be reviewed in the coming year, leaving members threatened with redundancy working as normal.
Staff received a 2% pay rise in August 2008, mirroring the situation in BBC Resources, even though the company made it clear that in the prevailing difficult trading circumstances it was hard even to justify that relatively low increase.
Red Bee Media
Lengthy pay talks in June/July 2008 led to an offer from the company of a 2.5% rise in August that year, followed by another 2.5% twelve months later. Growth in job payments were promised to be 0.5% in 2008 and 1% in 2009. A ballot of members revealed an overwhelming majority opposed to the offer, and a smaller majority willing to take action short of strike action to improve it.
Further talks with the company extracted an improved offer of 2.5% in 2008 followed by 3% in 2009, which was accepted by members in a postal ballot.
As part of the 2009 pay settlement, staff in the Creative Services department of Red Bee will transfer to a performance-based pay system, where the global amount of money available for increases in the area will be determined by the collectively-agreed increase, but individual rises will be set by a target-based appraisal-like process.
During the year over 120 staff previously employed by Channel 4 TUPE transferred into Red Bee, as a result of the company winning the TV playout contract for the channel. Initially they continued to be based at Horseferry Road, but over the course of the year they physically moved into the Broadcast Centre at White City.
BECTU was already recognised for the C4 members, and they are now part of the Red Bee BECTU branch. Talks are continuing on the job descriptions of ex-C4 staff, which are not aligned with those of Red Bee colleagues performing similar roles.
In January the company tabled proposed changes to the interpretation of the criteria used to determine whether staff should receive Unpredictability Allowances. Among the key changes was a facility to call staff in “on the day”.
I have continued to serve on the National Joint Council union side, dealing with national pay bargaining, pensions, and the policy simplification process which has seen most of the Agreed Statements re-worded.
I have also taken the BECTU lead on our engagement with the Olympics, including the legacy use of the International Broadcasting Centre, and on our responses to Ofcom’s spectrum review, which has implications for all users of radio microphones, and will also influence the long-term future of the Freeview digital TV platform. Until December 2008 I produced the monthly Informer newsletter which was mailed out with Stage Screen and Radio magazine.
Posted by Tony Scott
Filed under: Lay Reps report