BBC journalists are to stage two 48-hour strikes in the coming weeks as the long running row over pensions rages on.
The National Union of Journalists said its members will walk out on November 5 and 6 and again on November 15 and 16, with further strike dates to be announced in the coming days, including the threat of a Christmas stoppage.
The move follows a 70% majority rejection by NUJ members of the BBC’s “final” offer on pensions. The union described the proposed changes as making journalists “pay more, work longer and receive lower pensions”.
The union makes up 17% of BBC staff, UK-wide, with 300 members in Scotland. They said its 4,000 members at the BBC will also refuse to take on additional duties or volunteer for acting-up duties as part of an indefinite work to rule.
The dispute flared after the BBC announced plans to cap pensionable pay from next April and revalue pensions at a lower level, which unions said effectively devalued pensions already earned. BBC management said the changes were needed to try to tackle a huge pension deficit of more than £1.5 billion.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August Mark Thompson told delegates: “We’re going through one of the most painful changes of all – confronting the fact that the current pension arrangements for people inside the organisation are simply no longer affordable.”
In what many commentators are predicting will be a winter of discontent, the strikes by BBC journalists could be the first in a long line of industry disputes. Firefighters are also threatening industrial action but it is yet to be seen if either of these groups will gain the level of public support being demonstrated on the streets of Paris, as Nicholas Sarkozy raises the age for the state pension.