Thursday, November 11 2010,
BroadcastingThe second 48-hour strike of BBC staff planned for next week is likely to be scrapped after the corporation agreed to hold fresh talks on the controversial pension scheme changes.
Last week, members of the National Union of Journalists walked out on Friday and Saturday, disrupting various BBC news programmes, including Today and Newsnight. NUJ members plan to hold a further 48-hour strike next Monday and Tuesday.
Despite previously standing firm in the row, BBC People director Lucy Adams had a phone conversation with union officials yesterday, in which she agreed to discuss the pension proposals if the threat of strike action is dropped.
The NUJ will meet at 1pm today to decide whether to accept the offer of further talks and cancel next week's industrial action.
Adams was contacted by Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting union Bectu, whose members did not strike. Morrissey is acting on behalf of all the unions with members affected by the BBC's pension changes, which were introduced to cut the scheme's deficit.
In a statement, Morrissey said: "I can confirm we had an amicable discussion and [Adams] said the BBC was prepared to talk, but it had to be in 'peace time'.
"If the NUJ do want to come back into the fold they'll have to cancel the strikes on Monday and Tuesday. If they cancel the strikes tomorrow there will be talks with [the BBC]."
The NUJ wants to see BBC management commit to revisiting the proposed cuts to pension entitlements if the deficit, which is currently undergoing formal actuarial valuation, turns out to be less than £1.5 billion.
The actual size of the deficit has been a major point of dispute between BBC management and staff, but there is no indication that the corporation will move on this issue.
A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC is not prepared to re-open negotiations, the offer is the offer.
"We are happy to meet the joint unions to clarify some elements of the new arrangements, although we will not do this with the spectre of strikes which will impact the public still hanging over us
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