My position

There are two questions to answer when contemplating strike action.

First, is there a clear goal? And second, is the goal achievable?

On the first there is no doubt. The BBC has said it is going to impose the offer it has made. The goal of strike action is to stop this happening, so that we can have a proper negotiation about protecting the existing scheme. At the moment we do not know the true size of the deficit (although we know that it is at least 25% LESS than the BBC said when it started its scare campaign at the start of the summer).  And as my earlier posts have pointed out, there are compelling reasons for thinking that the existing scheme could be preserved without costing the licence fee payer any more more than the BBC already wants to spend on CAB2011.

The second question is tougher. It would clearly have been better if the unions had maintained a united front, and were going on strike together. Can the NUJ’s strike succeed? Yes, but it’s going to be a tough battle. We should be under no illusions. The only way to victory is to cause maximum discomfort to the BBC’s senior management. That means creating a real sense of resolve and purpose right at the start. It is certainly going to take more than one strike, and quite probably more than two rounds of successful action to make Mark Thompson think again. I suspect there is nothing he would like more at the moment than to defeat the NUJ – you can be absolutely sure that if he succeeds it will be a very short time indeed before he can be heard boasting that he has achieved something no DG has managed before; taming the unions.

But the fight is the right one. This pensions robbery is a disgraceful action of which the senior management at the BBC should be ashamed. They have scaremongered (a £2billion deficit, when it is actually under £1.5 billion); they have misled (numerous examples, but let’s take Zarin Patel’s legendary “life expectancy is increasing by a year every year” – which were it true would mean we are the first generation of immortal BBC employees); they have deliberately broken the promises they signed up to in the pension scheme rules and they have bullied (if you don’t vote yes we’ll withdraw the offer – as if it was some kind of second hand car deal). It is a flagrant piece of robbery and it is shocking that we have faced a senior management team so determined to renege on the BBC’s commitments.

At the end of the day they hope that we will succumb to sheer exhaustion – the constant drumbeat that “there is no alternative”. There IS an alternative, it is perfectly reasonable, and we are right to demand our pension rights be respected. Now is the only chance we’ll get to fight for our rights.

I won’t be crossing a picket line on Friday.


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