The BBC is facing the threat of strikes after thousands of journalists, technicians and other staff voted massively in favour of industrial action in a row over pensions, it was announced today.
Members of the National Union of Journalists and the technicians' union Bectu backed walkouts by more than 9-1 in protest at "punitive" changes to the staff pension scheme.
Unions held back from naming strike dates so that talks can be held over the next two weeks to resolve the dispute and avert strikes.
Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of Bectu, said: "This is a significant mandate for strikes, which demonstrates how out of touch BBC executives are with their staff. We hope they will now come up with more realistic proposals, otherwise we will have no alternative but to call industrial action."
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, said: "This is an unprecedented result in favour of strike action and a clear rejection of the BBC's proposals.
"We have agreed to give the BBC two weeks to come back with an improved offer or face a concerted campaign of industrial action."
The threat of strikes follows a BBC announcement of plans to cap pensionable pay at 1% from next April and revalue pensions at a lower level, which unions said effectively devalued pensions already earned.
BBC management said the changes were needed to try to tackle a huge pension deficit of more than £1.5 billion.
The NUJ circulated a leaflet to members headed "pensions robbery" and said staff were angry, warning the changes would signal the end of the "special relationship" they had with the corporation.
The leaflet said: "A massive yes vote in the ballot will leave the BBC with no choice - they are going to have to revise their plans or face co-ordinated and determined industrial action by all the BBC unions."
Unions said they wanted the BBC to come back to the negotiating table with a better offer that protected the value of pensions already earned.