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29/04/2004

Bristol recognition ballot extended

Voting has been extended in a Bectu ballot on union recognition among freelancers at BBC Bristol's Natural History Unit.
Scheduled to close on Tuesday April 27, the ballot of Bectu members who regularly work for the BBC Natural History Unit (NHU) will now close on April 30 at the earliest.
The extension came after applications for voting rights from six extra freelancers, supported by Bectu, to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), were successful.
Claims for voting rights on behalf of a further two freelancers were lodged, and at one stage it looked possible that the ballot would be extended beyond April 30. However, after discussions with the CAC, union officials confirmed late this evening that the April 30 closing date for the ballot is final.
Under new UK labour laws, trade unions can demand recognition of workplaces or workgroups where they either have more than 50% of workers in membership, or can win support in a ballot from 40% of all the workers, provided more than 50% of participants in the ballot vote for recognition.
A claim was submitted last year on behalf of freelance members who routinely work for the NHU in Bristol, but initially failed when the BBC successfully argued that the 60-plus wildlife camera freelancers were not actually workers.
This early decision was overturned when Bectu appealed to the High Court, clearing the way for a recognition ballot. Union officials have not been surprised by the BBC's adamant opposition to union recognition in the NHU.
A successful ballot could open the way to dozens of other recognition claims on behalf of freelancers across the BBC, challenging a management culture in which the Corporation has become one of the most litigious employers in the UK when the rights of contract and freelance staff have been asserted by Bectu.
(GB)
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