Defending the final salary scheme (still)

Reports from union meetings seem to suggest that the senior union leadership at least at BECTU believe that fighting to defend the final salary scheme is a “lost cause”, and the only show in town is to try and improve CAB 2011 – the BBC’s new, marginally improved pensions offer.

I beg to differ.

It seems to me astonishing to allow the BBC to close down the debate on the existing scheme when fundamental questions remain unanswered, including why the BBC is not prepared to use alternative funding sources such as Worldwide profits to help fund the deficit, something the pension trustees regard as a viable solution. In fact, we haven’t even managed to get an answer out of the BBC as to why they won’t do this (see earlier posts for my explanation). This dispute is now very clearly about the BBC’s determination to force everyone off the final salary scheme, replace it with a vastly inferior alternative, and in the process drastically reduce the amount it spends on pensions. Given that pensions are a deferred salary, it is a savage assault on our remuneration.

I accept that Mark Thompson is not going to change his mind voluntarily about the final salary scheme. But the 90% vote for strike action shows that BBC employees are of a mind to try and force him to change his mind. It seems to me madness to throw away that mandate by negotiating for incremental improvements to the massively inferior CAB 2011, without making a very determined effort to compel the BBC to change its mind about the existing scheme.

In the end this is about power. If the existing pension scheme is effectively closed down not only will the BBC have forced through a drastic reduction in the reward package for staff, it will also have rewritten the power relationship with the unions, and with staff. How long I wonder before the BBC is back with a new “draconian” proposal, to slash the redundancy terms?

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