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29/10/2010

BECTU 'Settles BBC Pensions Dispute'

While the journalists in the NUJ have rejected a BBC proposal on revised pensions, the UK's broadcast union BECTU has backed a decision by members to accept what they said is an improved pensions offer.
In consultative ballots union members have accepted that the offer is the best that can be achieved through negotiation.
Members in the BBC and in Studios and Post Production Ltd voted by 65% to 35% to accept the improved offer; their colleagues in BBC Worldwide voted in favour by a bigger margin of 89% in favour to 11% against.
However, BECTU warned that the dispute could resurface next year if the pension deficit claimed by the BBC turns out to be less than £1.5bn.
The official deficit figure, following the triennial review of the scheme, will be confirmed by June 2011.
The news comes after the unions representing staff at the BBC, of which BECTU is the largest, worked together to negotiate improvements to management's initial proposal. The BBC's plan provoked widespread anger amongst BBC staff and was dubbed a 'pensions robbery'.
Senior management had proposed to cap future increases in pensionable pay by 1% each year from April 2011; even more significantly, the corporation's initial proposals failed to protect the earned entitlements of scheme members, leaving many facing a cut in their pensions of up to 30%.
Then, a strike action ballot, concluded on 1 September, revealed support for action from 90 per cent of members, a fact which put management under even more pressure to improve on their proposals for pension reform.
However, BECTU members have since accepted the deal based on several factors.
A 1% cap on pensionable increases from 1 April 2011 for those who choose to remain in their existing defined benefit (final salary) scheme and the option from April 2011 to join a new, career average defined benefit scheme (CAB2011) which will enable members to accrue salary-related pension benefits, without a cap on annual increases, based on 6% employee contributions.
There will also be an extension of time - until December 2011 - for current staff to decide to join CAB2011 or the new defined contribution scheme to be introduced in December 2010; this provision will allow members buying added years, or paying additional voluntary contributions (AVCs), more time to accrue these benefits.
A sum, up to £5m each year, will be used to match employee contributions to AVCs up to a maximum of £300 a year and 'CPI', up to 4% to be used to calculate the annual uprating of accrued benefits in CAB2011 and the annual uprating of pensions in payment (a mechanism to review the level of uprating in times of high inflation has also been agreed).
Members who choose to leave their existing scheme for CAB2011 will become deferred members and will see their accrued benefits protected against RPI in line with the rules of their existing scheme and a new defined contribution scheme will be open to new recruits to the BBC from December 2010 and will also be an option for current staff.
Commenting on the ballot result, BECTU General Secretary, Gerry Morrissey, said: "I believe that the outcome of these talks, given the climate which the BBC and other public bodies face today, represents a decent settlement for BBC staff and is one that would not been have been achieved without the enduring support of our members and their local representatives.
"However, there is no hiding the fact that even with the improvements we have negotiated members will in future have less favourable terms than exist currently," he said, noting that BECTU believes that a deciding factor in today’s ballot results is that BBC staff will not have to make a decision about future pension arrangements until December 2011, at least six months after the extent of the current scheme deficit is known.
Meanwhile, NUJ members rejected the BBC's offer in their ballot and BECTU expects that talks between the joint unions and the BBC to now continue until the end of the consultation period on 15 November
(BMcC/GK)
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