BBC staff call off Tory conference strike

The threat of a strike by BBC staff that would have disrupted coverage of next week's Conservative conference was lifted yesterday to give staff time to vote on a new offer from management.

The reprieve came after the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, had urged the unions not to black out David Cameron's speech, the first party conference speech by a Conservative Prime Minister for 14 years.

Three unions – Bectu, which represents camera crews, Unite, which represents engineers, and the National union of Journalists – had called the strike in protest at the ending of the BBC's final salary pension scheme.

The first action was planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday, preventing coverage of the Conservative annual coverage on BBC news bulletins. But after talks with management until late in the afternoon, the union leaders emerged with an improved offer. It will be put to their members in a ballot.

If it is rejected, there is still the threat of a two-day strike on 19 and 20 October, blacking out reporting of George Osborne's comprehensive spending review, in which details of the public spending cuts will be revealed. The unions have also given notice of another planned strike on 25 and 26 October.

"We have had a significantly improved offer from the BBC which we believe is the best that can be achieved through negotiation. If it is accepted, all the action will be called off, but if it is rejected, strikes will take place," Gerry Morrissey, the General Secretary of Bectu, said yesterday.

The new offer will have helped heal a rift that was opening up between the unions and Labour's new leader, and between the BBC's senior political journalists and lower-paid staff.

A letter signed by 31 prominent BBC journalists, including the Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and the political editor Nick Robinson, had appealed to the strikers not to disrupt the Conservative conference because it might give the impression of bias.

Privately, political journalists were arguing that if there was to be a strike, it should be timed to coincide with Strictly Come Dancing, for maximum impact on the BBC's audience figures, rather than on the coverage of political events about which the public has a right to be informed.

The stars' appeal was supported yesterday by the Labour leader. "Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute between Bectu and the BBC, they should not be blacking out the Prime Minister's speech. My speech was seen and heard on the BBC and in the interests of impartiality and fairness, so the Prime Minister's should be," Mr Miliband said.

His remarks angered union leaders, particularly since two of the unions involved, Bectu and Unite, are contributors to Labour funds. "As a Labour Party affiliate, BECTU places on record its dissatisfaction with Ed Miliband's statement," Mr Morrissey said. "The Leader's intervention is not helpful and is dismissive of our actions as a responsible trade union which has been negotiating with the employer on this issue for three long months."

The dispute began when the BBC's management announced a 1 per cent limit on future pension increases, to fill what they claim is a £1.5bn hole in the pension fund. The unions dispute whether the deficit is as high as management claims, and said the planned cut would mean long-serving staff retiring on pensions of as little as £12,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine