Royal Mail and BBC staff threaten strikes

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Employers’ reluctance to use mediation – and further public sector austerity – mean more unrest is likely, says industrial relations expert.

Royal Mail managers and BBC journalists could be on the verge of striking over cuts to pay and meal allowances.

Unite, the UK’s biggest trade union, said almost 4,900 of its members who work for Royal Mail could walk out over a new pay offer of 1.3 per cent, which members feel is insufficient.

Some 95 percent of Unite members at the postal giant have rejected the pay rise, which Unite officer Brian Scott labelled “paltry”. They have until 21 April to vote on the proposed strike action.

BBC journalists are also threatening industrial action over cuts to their daily evening meal allowance, which has been reduced from £16 to £10 and is claimable when staff work a late shift. BBC bosses claimed the change will save the organisation £300,000 a year, as part of efforts to cut its annual costs by £800 million.

Sue Harris, national broadcasting officer at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said:

“Why should our members pick up the tab? These are legitimate expenses that staff incur as they do their jobs, often during unsocial hours.

Meanwhile, the management continues to receive perks such as car allowances even if they don’t have a car. The talks to discuss the changes of rates have been a farce and our patience has run out.

Our members are angry and if the management insists on foisting this unfair deal, we will be a balloting for strike action.”

The BBC also intends to ban employees from taking first-class trains, and has informed them they should avoid using taxis in central London and opt for public transport wherever possible. The NUJ, together with unions BECTU and Unite, has suggested that the BBC could instead achieve the savings by slashing car perks for senior executives, which they said cost the broadcaster £344,000 last year.

The unions have proposed making savings in other expenses areas, including senior management private medical insurance, senior management car allowances and hospitality and business entertainment.

The strike threat comes after a meeting between BBC bosses and the unions on 4 April. The unions are waiting for written confirmation of the management’s final proposals before proceeding with an industrial action ballot.

A BBC spokesman told International Business Times UK: “With the financial challenges the BBC is facing, it’s more important than ever to get maximum value from every penny of the licence fee.

“These proposals will help create a simpler, more efficient, BBC while ensuring staff are not out of pocket for the essential costs incurred in doing their jobs. These expense changes will apply to all staff, including Senior Managers. We ended car allowances and private medical insurance for new Senior Managers over three years ago.”

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