Leaders of the Bectu broadcasting union, the National Union of Journalists and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union issued the call at a meeting with Margaret Salmon, the BBC's director of personnel.
She did not respond to it, nor to the union's question whether Mr Birt's salary had risen since he cancelled the arrangement by which he was paid through a private company. The unions want assurances the payment has not been adjusted to make up for the extra tax he has to pay now he is on the payroll. The BBC would not comment last night.
The union delegates also raised questions about Mr Birt's expenses, asking for confirmation that the BBC provides him with two cars and a chauffeur and reimburses him for costs incurred while on duty. 'Travel and entertainment costs appear as tax deductible expenses in the accounts of John Birt Productions Ltd,' the union statement pointed out.
Roger Bolton, Bectu's chief negotiator, told Ms Salmon that staff were 'shocked and outraged' at the damage to the BBC's reputation caused by the revelations. Tony Lennon, president of Bectu, who attended the meeting, said there was 'a certain amount of shamefacedness' among the management representatives. 'Not many leapt to John Birt's defence,' he said.