Strike threat at ITV in pensions row

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Unions have threatened ITV with a wave of strike action that could disrupt the production of flagship programmes such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale unless the broadcaster rethinks its plans to close its final-salary pension scheme.

Unions that represent ITV staff, including Bectu, the National Union of Journalists and Amicus, warned of industrial action after meeting the company's executives over proposed changes to its pension plan.

Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of Bectu, said: "When our representatives met yesterday they were extremely angry the company had decided to make such savage changes to their pension arrangements at a time when the company's profits are up and after a significant period of job-shedding through redundancies and outsourcing."

ITV plans to close its final-salary pension scheme to existing members and replace it with a career average scheme. Unions believe ITV's planned changes could reduce its pension contributions by around 10 per cent. The move is expected to help reduce ITV's £325m pension deficit. The changes could affect up to a quarter of its 6,000-strong workforce when the alterations feed through in April.

ITV is reportedly preparing to interview a shortlist of candidates for the chief executive role over the next two weeks, raising hopes that it could soon appoint a replacement for Charles Allen. ITV declined to comment on whether it is set to hold interviews. Potential candidates include former NTL managing director and head of Ofcom Stephen Carter, Dawn Airey, who is in charge of programming at BSkyB, and Stewart Till, chief executive of United International Pictures.

Andy Duncan, head of Channel 4, has become the latest media figure to call on regulators to assess the impact of BSkyB's purchase of a near-18 per cent stake in ITV. He said Channel 4 feels "pretty small and pretty vulnerable" as a result.