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A UNION ballot of members regarding new BBC company, BBC Technology Limited, has been abandoned to allow the vote to be taken again.
The decision to scrap the first ballot, which came only hours before the papers were due to be counted, followed complaints from members and branches about the limited choice of questions on the original voting form.
In the first ballot, members among the 1300 BBC staff who plan to transfer into the new subsidiary company, were asked whether or not they accepted the Corporation’s final proposals for treatment of staff once they had moved.
Many members who received voting papers contacted the union to clarify whether a vote to accept the guarantees on offer for pay and conditions implied that they supported the BBC’s decision to set up the new company.
After reviewing the wording of the ballot question, and considering representations from some of the branches affected by the change, union officials decided to cancel the first ballot and run another one using new questions.
Arrangements for the second ballot were underway on October 11, and papers should be sent out in the week beginning October 16. The papers will contain two clear questions: Whether or not members accept the pay and conditions guarantees on offer? Whether they support the creation of the wholly-owned subsidiary company?
Earlier this week the union clarified their stance on the BBC’s plans to create another wholly-owned subsidiary in a letter to Culture Minister Chris Smith. The letter was intended to clear up ambiguities which has led to the confusion among members voting in the ballot.
A private briefing on the company’s future business plans left union representatives unconvinced that the levels of external work envisaged for BBC Technology Limited were high enough to breach competition laws, or the European restrictions on public bodies engaging in commercial activity.
BECTU’s attitude towards the new company has been fiercely debated within the union. The debate has been complicated by recent legal cases in other industries that have made it difficult, or impossible, for unions to organise industrial protests against the transfer of workers from one employer to another, provided the TUPE rules on protection of pay and conditions are honoured.
BECTU officials will be briefing both the BBC and Culture Minister on the development in the union’s deliberations on the new company. The BBC are anxious to transfer staff on November 1, but need Ministerial approval. Smith was expected by the union to make his decision once the views of members were known at the close of the original ballot.
It was unclear as preparations were made for the second ballot what effect the delay would have on the government’s decision-making process.

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