BBC unions call for October strikes

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Unions at the BBC called Monday for two 48-hour strikes to coincide with major domestic news events next month in protest at changes to employees' pensions at the broadcaster.

Journalists, technicians and broadcast staff have been asked to strike on October 5-6, when the ruling Conservative Party holds its party conference, and again on October 19-20, when the government announces public spending cuts.

The action was announced by three unions -- Bectu, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Unite -- even though the BBC has offered a new concession in an attempt to avert strikes.

Unions will consult with their members over the next few weeks before meeting on October 1 to decide whether to go ahead with the strikes.

Under the latest pension proposal from the BBC, pensions would be based on average pay over a career and the BBC would not put an annual one-percent cap on growth of pensionable pay.

However, employees would have to work longer, to the age of 65 rather than 60, and would have to pay a greater proportion of their salary into a pension pot.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said BBC employees were being asked "to pay much more for significantly worse benefits".

"If the BBC fails to listen to the continued anger of staff at these unacceptable pensions changes, we will be left with no choice but to strike to stop the pensions robbery," he said.

Britain faces the threat of an autumn of strikes in protest at the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government's plans to introduce deep cuts to public spending as it bids to cut the record deficit.

Unions meeting Monday at their annual congress voted overwhelmingly to back rare coordinated strikes as they were urged to "stand up and fight" the government's austerity cuts.

© 2010 AFP

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