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Lay Reps Annual Report 2009: Tony Lennon

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.

SIS Live!

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.

Siemens

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”.

General activities

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

Lay Reps Annual Report 2009: Jane Perry

For the period April 2008 to April 2009.

Summary of meetings attended in my areas of responsibility.

Meeting Quantity
NEC and F&GP 9
NJC 10
Joint Working Party: Policy Simplification 11
Recruitment Days/events 14
BBC Division 5
Nations and Regions SDC 4
Production SDC 3
DLMs (all areas) 6
LLMs (all areas) 12
Branch Committees (all areas) 10
BECTU Equality and Diversity Committee 3
BECTU DMNC and BBC DSF 12
Trade Union Disability Alliance 5
Conference/lobbying days 9
Courses 2
Personal Cases 45
Total 160

National Executive and Finance and General Purposes Committees

The NEC and F&GP are the places I represent BBC and outsourced members’ issues across our union. As said often before it is also the place from which we have access to Labour Ministers and MPs. The purpose of which, during the last year, has been primarily and, so far successfully, to stop top slicing of the licence fee. We managed to achieve this by lobbying ministers and MPs and by presenting credible alternatives.

National Joint Council – negotiating at national level

The NJC is the place from which BECTU successfully protects and extends BBC members’ terms and conditions. On the negative side this has largely been against, in the last year, managements’ overreaction to situations that the unions had warned them of. Namely ‘scandals’ largely caused by making experienced staff redundant and exploiting inexperienced workers in their place.

On the positive side, thorough joint working parties, we have been engaged with management in clarifying and simplifying BBC policies. There have been no loses so far in this process and some important gains: for example the timely resolution of member’s grievances and the up-dating of health and sickness policies so that they are distinct from disability policies. Further the BBC has undertaken to up-date it’s retention of disabled staff policy. Importantly they have said that they will include clear guidance on disability leave so that leave taken to undergo, the likes of chemotherapy treatment, could be recorded separately from sick leave so not using up precious paid absences

BECTU NJC’s continued ability to protect T&Cs, not to mention the pension, depends on the mandates from members and our ability to recruit them.

Recruitment

We have been trying different ways to recruitment members: recruitment walk rounds, recruitment desks, ‘Move On Up’ career days, flyer handouts, lunchtime workshops and chocolate fountains to name a few.

Almost 1 in 3 who work for the BBC are members of a union: considering what Thatcher managed to do to the trade union movement, this number is no mean feat. The BBC workforce is more diverse, in everyway, than it has ever been before and therefore we need to try new, diverse ways of recruiting. From experience there is no such thing as a wasted meeting, conversation or flyer: the only failure is when someone isn’t aware of BECTU!

Vision

At long last we near the end of the last round of redundancies with, for example, only 2 left under threat in Children’s. However budget cuts loom.

We wait with baited breath what the final outcome of the move north will be for those in scope in both Vision and FM&T. So far discussions have been constructive. However the question, will enough want to go? that should surely have been asked before the DG made any commitments, still hangs in the air.

FM&T

Positive meetings have been held concerning those who are in scope for the move to Salford and how flexible FM&T management are prepared to be – at least, in theory at this stage.

I&A

I&A management have worked well with us to avoid compulsory redundancies. I&A remains a highly motivated branch and will undertake their second learning at work day in May.

One of the most poignantly pleasurable experiences of the last year has been the recent TUPE ing into BBC I&A from BBC resources of 10 Current Ops staff. Though a review could mean cuts.

Elstree

BECTU has won freelance recognition at Elstree for those working on EastEnders. The 7 year campaign proves that it’s not the number who turn up at meetings that counts but the number who are made and kept aware of the campaign. Thanks must go to all involved, on all types of contract and from all grades who helped, for whom the right to trade union recognition was a no-brainer and a human right. Unfortunately, especially in the 21st Century, many of those who helped, staff and freelance alike, have expressed a wish to retain their anonymity.

Budget cuts are being made on EastEnders but those who work in the prop store have now been transferred to continuing staff contracts.

TV Training at Elstree is under threat again of being moved from Elstree, a perfect ‘campus’ site, to the cramped, noisy and chaotic W12, at large expense and for no other reason that the conveyance of management. The proximity of training to production offices will mean that training will be further interrupted by trainees pressurised into doing their jobs at the same time: multi-skilling at its most counterproductive!

Norwich

Compulsory redundancies have been avoided. HR & management have stuck to the agreement made concerning single person operation of the U-pod in their proposal for an ICAV.

Wales: Cardiff and Bangor

LLMs in Bangor have started to take place.

Cardiff remains a strong branch. The only redundancies have been voluntary, there are a few still at risk. However Cardiff, with its high membership, have the most effective weapon of all: a continued mandate for industrial action against any compulsory redundancies.

Diversity

I serve on BECTU’s Equality and Diversity Committee and as serve as chair of BECTU’s Disabled Member Network Committee. This committee acts a watch dog and advocate of BECTU’s work on disability issues. We do need to recruit new members by raising awareness that there is nothing wrong with being disabled.

It is very important that equality and diversity issues are embedded in all negotiations and to this end I am gratified by what we are achieving within the BBC’s Joint Working Parties on Health and on Maternity polices.

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

Lay Reps Annual Report 2009: Dan Cooke

For the period April 2008 to April 2009, 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.

Summary of meetings attended in my areas of responsibility:

Meeting Quantity
A&M 5
BBC Divisional Committee 5
Joint Working Party: Policy Simplification 9
Joint Working Party: UPA 3
N&R SDC 5
News SD 1
Production SDC 2
LLM in ER 18
LLM in WS 13
LLM in Sport 1
DLMs (All areas) 7
Pensions 27
Branch Committee 15
Project Next 23
Personal Case 30
Pensions 27
Others 33
Total 196

Audio and Music Division

The division’s “continuous improvement plan” aka the 3% year on year savings, this year is based around the amalgamation of production teams in the same genre, reduction of original material and live music, more repeats and tightened budgets. Radio Drama has had its share of cuts, with the Asian Network soap “Silver Street” being reduced in episode numbers and consequently some staff headcount. In the current year there are no compulsory redundancies being forecast. Next year may be a different matter.

The division has proposed a number of new job descriptions which the Branch have found unacceptably wide-ranging, with a great deal of overlap between jobs. They have concerns that the underlying purpose of this is to reduce the grades and pay of staff over time, and pay less for higher responsibility. After a breakdown in negotiations, the BBC has made its final position known, and the branch response is awaited at the time of writing.

English Regions

The continuous improvement plan called Creative Futures continued to lead to post closures and other financial savings. The biggest blow was the rejection of BBC Local Video by the BBC Trust. A considerable number of posts were expected to be created, as well as saving others that had been held pending the BBC Trust’s decision. The Trust suggested some alternative ideas that ER management could make a bid for funding for, and that has now gone to the Trust with a decision on that expected in late April. The failure of this bid will have considerable consequences for our members in English Regions. Meantime, Slice and Dice funding ended on April 1st and ER management have been trying to devise ways of increasing video content on the websites whilst coping with smaller numbers of staff. Tense discussions are still ongoing with management at local level about a variety of solutions, with an ER wide review due in July. Last year I singled out BBC South West region, based in Plymouth, for poor industrial relations, and was optimistic that they were improving. The HRLP has just resigned from the BBC to “pursue other things” so we have an opportunity to build a new relationship with the incoming HRLP.

In one region, staffing is so dire that Broadcast Operators who picture edit, have been told to operate the Autocue for the 20:00 regional TV bulletin. The Branch have demanded talks on this, since Broadcast Operator members feel that this is a production responsibility. As of 1st April English Regions was split away from the Nations and is now part of News division. I suspect a busy year is ahead!

World Service

Following the launch last year of Arabic TV, Persian TV was launched in October and Arabic TV went 24 hours in November. A considerable number of consultation and local liaison meetings resulted. There are still issues of shift lengths, patterns and bank-holiday leave calculations to be resolved. Membership in Arabic TV is extremely high, and work is in hand to improve membership numbers in Persian TV. In the Radio services, with the belt tightening still continuing, the Russian service announced a reorganisation with potentially 9 redundancies. After a series of LLMs and some nifty footwork by both unions, no compulsory redundancies resulted and most of the members’ concerns were addressed satisfactorily.

BBC Monitoring

There have been a number of personal cases. Pat Styles has been involved, and it would seem that the management have little understanding of procedures and protocols. There is still much work to do in improving industrial relations in this rural corner of the BBC.

Sport

Following last years problems with staff overtime claims and special arrangements for travelling at the Olympics, it has been a quieter year. There were still some outstanding job cuts that had been postponed due to the Olympics and the new F1 contract. With the departure of Roger Mosey and the appointment of Barbara Slater as Head of Sport, a senior management reshuffle has been taking place in recent weeks. The BBC has just served notice that it now intends to sort out the outstanding redundancies prior to any Salford moves. Talks are awaited.

BBC Workplace

In my last report I covered the outsourcing of English Regions FM staff to Haden Building Management. That company has morphed into Balfour Beatty Workplace, and recently started sending letters to some of our ex-BBC members advising them that they were at risk of compulsory redundancy. At the time of writing Helen Ryan and I are seeking an urgent meeting with BBW, who seem to have ignored various provisions agreed last July as part of the TUPE process.

Project NEXT

The process to retain the remaining technology areas in-house whilst delivering the 3% efficiency savings has also been progressing. Following the first post closures in the Bristol under the NEXT programme, the management focus moved to the London Central Technical Areas. Broadcasting House Control Room (LCR), TV Centre control room (SCAR) and Bush House (NOC). Negotiations started off on the wrong foot with management making unsubstantiated claims that SCAR members would have to work in LCR doing night-shifts by September 2008, and then proceeding to table a new Rota pattern. As a result talks nearly broke down. Some behind the scenes discussions meant that the negotiations were halted, new HR and Project NEXT managers were appointed, and a rethink of the Employer/ Union working relationship.

This led to a series of training workshops covering “Principled Negotiating” in early 2009 for those Reps involved in Project NEXT. Negotiations recommenced shortly afterwards in a different atmosphere, and working in a far more collaborative manner.

Progress is slow because the decision was taken to tackle the hardest problems first. However, it looks probable that we will make positive progress in the coming months. A side effect of this “new way of working” is that all eyes of the BBC management are upon the negotiating teams, watching for success (or failure).

Personal Cases

I met with and supported some 15 members at 30 meetings. Six cases are still ongoing, one of which has been running for 3 years.

The smaller number of HR staff has hampered the speedy handling of cases for another year.

The Joint Working Group on Policy Simplification has agreed a number of revised policies. BECTU made strong representation in this forum for procedures to be completed more quickly. A general rule has now been agreed that 60 days should be the maximum except in special circumstances.

Time will tell if this is actually achieved.

Pensions

As a Member Elected Trustee of the BBC Pension Fund, I attended 27 days worth of meetings in the period of this review. The member elected Trustees yet again complained of an excessive burden being placed upon them, compared to the BBC nominated Trustees. As a result of a governance review this year, the way that the sub-committees to the main board are constructed is changing, and the workload will be more evenly spread across all Trustees.

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

Lay Reps Annual Report 2009: Mark Scrimshaw

Report of the Chair of BBC Division to BBC Divisional Conference, Bournemouth 2009

Lord Salisbury: “What do we need change for? Aren’t things bad enough as they are?”

When the Brand/Ross fiasco was in full swing, I sent a mischievous email (a dangerous thing I know!) saying that the BBC was instigating a new series of compulsory training sessions for all production staff, called “Pranks and Pratfalls: How not to Humiliate your Contributors”. It may be taken as a sign of the times, the state of the BBC and its staff’s collective paranoia, that I received a number of replies expressing outrage that we were being forced to do this!

However, what I hadn’t foreseen was the crazy idea of the Compliance demand, forcing everyone to sign the online Compliance document in yet another bonkers management over-reaction. There has been more negative reaction to this generalised and ill-considered all-staff email than any I have known before. If only the DG would occasionally stop and think before pandering to whatever daily newspaper he’s trying to appease that day.

Mark Thompson has created a truly weird beast from the Birtian ashes of the new Corporation. We’re still dealing with the crazed ideologies which created the internal market, and which make the current regime’s ONE BBC policy a hollow thing in which division vies against division. Meanwhile none of the senior managers (and let’s not forget that 50 of them are paid more than the Prime Minister!) seem able to make the simplest decision unless it’s green-lighted by the DG himself. A very strange and dysfunctional hierarchical structure, totally ill-suited to the modern media world.

Another result of past failures with which we’re actively dealing now is the BBC Trust. This was the direct result of the fiasco over the Hutton Enquiry and Dyke’s resignation, bringing down the Governors with him. But what replaced the old system was even worse, and that has been proven by the Trust’s betrayal of regional broadcasting and its bbclocalvideo proposal. Their craven and pusillanimous acquiescence to commercial interests shows where their heart lies – not only are they not pro-PSB, they’re actively and unashamedly anti-PSB. Your NJC representatives are trying to engage the Trust in conversation and debate, to help resolve some of the dreadful governance conundrums in which the BBC finds itself, with the Trust rapidly losing the confidence of staff and taking on itself powers which do not appear to be within its remit. On what basis does Michael Lyons, chair of the Trust, send all-staff emails out on all manner of contentious issues, when he says it’s not the Trust’s place to engage with the unions on these same issues? That’s why we need to engage them.

Across the BBC we’re now dealing with the consequences of the past decade of decisions from our paymasters and managers:

  • The most recent License Fee settlement
  • The renewed Charter
  • The savage cuts of Value for Money and Creative Futures (ongoing of course)
  • “Out of London” – Salford primarily, but also new commissioning of in-house and indies programming from the Nations and major regional centres in Bristol and Birmingham
  • Which have also been influenced by the Network Supply Review

Running parallel were a series of production scandals – Vanessa Feltz “guests”, phone charging scams, Blue Peter con tricks, the Liebovitz/Queen edited trail, Brand and Ross. But these scandals were created and perpetuated by deliberate BBC policies which the union warned would result in chaos, and which every day threatens the integrity of our programmes and the jobs of our members:

  • The rush to get rid of experienced staff who could argue against managers’ increasingly bizarre demands, leaving young and inexperienced staff easily threatened and exploited
  • The dash to outsource and privatise, taking skills and knowledge out of the BBC, alienating committed BBC staff – all of which have resulted in just two things in return for a fistful of dollars – poorer services at higher prices
  • And the determination to hand over increasing numbers of productions to independent companies; companies over whom we appear to have little control (vis Queengate, and the Ross and Brand shows produced by their own companies) and who have a duty only to increase their shareholders’ dividends, and not apply BBC standards and beliefs.

It ill-behoves BBC executives to appear in Newsnight bemoaning staff shortcomings when their avaricious, shortsighted and inadequate policies have actually created the problems.

So where does all that leave BECTU?

It leaves us fighting to defend a system of fair PSB funding and programming, when the management itself makes increasingly inadequate and strategically naïve attempts to do so;

It leaves us fighting to defend our members’ interest and rights against inconsistent and arbitrary divisional agendas;

From icav vans to GPS tracking systems in sat trucks; from Siemens contracts to Indian offshoring to Project Next; in all our ventures and contractors; from diversity issues (like our massively successful Move On Up events) to increasing demands for multi-skilling and “new ways of working” – like Value for Money and Creative Futures, hideously ironic descriptions of new ways of screwing even more out of staff. On all of these your representatives spend their time arguing, battling and trying to find the best deal we can.

Personally, the current financial situation has absolutely convinced me that we are best employed prioritising the following on our dealings with the BBC:

  • Job security – while the commercial sector quakes, the demand for our programmes is as strong as ever, and the BBC should recognise the work we do rather than use the financial crisis as an excuse for cuts and pay freezes
  • Pensions – clearly at the very top of our members’ concerns; our absolute determination is to defend the Final Salary Pension Scheme at all costs, and we may be forced into some decisions if the recession is longer than expected
  • Terms & conditions – and in an era of “new ways of working”, making sure that our members’ working lives remain fulfilling and not exploited; the latest example being the astonishing “ITV Partnership” Memorandum of Understanding which seeks to save ITV’s regional news obligations by offering up BBC facilities and staff. The full ramifications of this bizarre idea have yet to work out, but we have had the first meeting with Deputy DG Mark Byford, and we’re also working closely with our colleagues in the IB Division – their chair attended our last Divisional meeting to discuss joint areas of interest.

2009 will be another important year in the history of the BBC.

  • Salford will start becoming a reality, with many of our members facing tough decisions on moving;
  • the Nations take on a much greater almost semi-autonomous role which absolutely fits with their political aspirations, but which may threaten the essential national integrity of the BBC;
  • News and English Regions begin a further attempt to work together in harmony;
    Our programme-making and support units face further cuts and budget restrictions, and threats from growing independent companies;
  • the possibility of a new Conservative government may increase, and with it threats to the whole notion of PSB and a license-fee funded BBC, beyond it the abyss of an unregulated free-market monster like American TV;
  • and the nation’s financial situation remains in flux, demanding that we think carefully about any steps we take on Pay, Pensions and Jobs.

BECTU will continue to fight for a strong, publicly-funded BBC, committed to public service broadcasting across all genres, made across the whole country and reflecting the voices of people from all our nations and regions. It will fight for its members’ rights, and to protect terms and conditions at work. It will fight to make the BBC more diverse in its employment and more responsive and open to public enquiry and accountability. And it will fight to end the absurdities of the internal market inside the BBC which pit divisions and departments against each other.

BECTU believes the BBC, for all its craziness, is worth fighting to protect. We believe we can defend our members working within it, with their help and support. As the Basque fishermen say, “It’s easy to turn an aquarium into fish stew. It’s a lot harder to turn it back into an aquarium again.”

Posted by Tony Scott

Filed under: Lay Reps report

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