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BBC peace offer to go to union ballot

Industry union Bectu plans to run a consultative ballot of BBC members on a package tabled at ACAS after the May 23 strike.
The package includes a promise of no compulsory redundancies until July 2006, a commitment to protection of terms and pensions for staff affected by the privatisation of BBC Broadcast, and a two-year halt to the sale of BBC Resources.
Officials announced that a ballot would be run just a day after BBC Director-General Mark Thompson agreed to a framework for future discussions on his plan for 4,000 job cuts, which had been a main factor behind the one-day strike in May.
In face-to-face talks with the DG on June 8, officials from BECTU, journalists' union NUJ, and Amicus, agreed (subject to members accepting the ACAS formula) to allow trawls for redundancy volunteers in areas hit by job cuts, in return for divisional-level negotiations on the scale of the cuts, and the impact on staff who remain.
The discussions were held at the request of unions following all-night talks at ACAS in late May which resulted in a peace formula, but left officials and members with concerns about the "scale and impact" of redundancies.
At ACAS the BBC had tabled an offer which included a promise of no compulsory redundancies before July 2006, and a framework for discussion of detailed plans for cuts within each of the BBC's 14 divisions.
Mr Thompson confirmed at the June 8 discussions that he was willing to meet the unions again before the end of the year to review the outcome of the divisional talks on job cuts, and acknowledged that the avoidance of compulsory redundancies was high on the unions' agenda.
Industrial action has been suspended to allow the volunteers' trawl and the promised divisional-level discussions, but could be resumed with seven days notice if any attempt was made to impose compulsory redundancies.
To deal with members' concerns that too many redundancies could put an extra burden on staff who remain working for the BBC, unions gave the BBC notice that work-to-rule protests could be organised if managers release too many volunteers.
Bectu has to run three separate ballots of members, to cover the BBC itself, and the two subsidiaries threatened with privatisation - BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources - where members joined the strike action on May 23.
Ballot papers will not, however, be sent out until the BBC has officially confirmed that staff in BBC Broadcast have guarantees that, if their company is sold, there will be no changes in terms and conditions for three years, no compulsory redundancies for 12 months, and access for current staff to a final salary pension scheme broadly comparable to the BBC's own.
The sale of BBC Broadcast is well-advanced, and the BBC has already reduced the long list of interested buyers to a shortlist of only four companies.
For staff in Resources, which was also marked down for privatisation when Mark Thompson announced his new vision for the BBC in December 2004, the BBC is offering that there should be no sell-off, wholly or in part, until July 2007 at the earliest, and has also confirmed that if the ACAS package is accepted, the process of preparing for a sale will be abandoned completely until January 2007.
BECTU hopes to conclude its ballots by the end of June, and will be recommending that members should accept the BBC's ACAS offer, with the subsequent qualifications from the DG, as the best outcome that can be achieved without further, and potentially extended, industrial action.
The two smaller BBC unions are likely to ballot their members on the offer, although the NUJ journalists' union has reported that it plans a meeting of representatives on June 15 before proceeding.

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