Thompson attempts to halt BBC strike action

LONDON - Strike action at the BBC looks likely to have been halted after an eleventh-hour meeting between the director general Mark Thompson and unions calling for a walk out.

The dispute focuses on the 2006 2.6% pay offer to BBC employees, a figure 0.4% below the current 3% inflation rate, an offer the broadcast union BECTU, the National Union of Journalists and the Musician's Union have deemed unacceptable.  

Threats of compulsory redundancy, and an imbalance in the above-inflation pay rises awarded to the BBC executive board,  have also been stated reasons for considering industrial action by the three unions.

Before the intervention by Thompson yesterday, the group was  looking to hold a strike ballot that could have crippled the corporation with a mass walk out by members of each union.

Ballot papers for the strike were expected to be issued by next Thursday, with a closing date of August 3.

Union representatives were due to meet again on the afternoon of August 3 to consider the ballot's outcome.

Although the BBC said that it was waiting on a formal response from the parties involved, a spokesman for the corporation said that the meeting had yielded "positive" dialogue between both parties.

The spokesman, said: "I can confirm there has been a meeting between the director general and the unions involved in potential action, and that the meeting was a positive one.

"The BBC has now written to the unions concerned, and is now awaiting a formal response."

Director-general Mark Thompson waived his bonus last year and said he would not take it while enacting large-scale job cuts, but he was still awarded an 8.7% pay rise on his basic salary, increasing it to £619,000.

Senior executives such as director of television Jana Bennett and director of radio Jenny Abramsky have also been awarded substantial pay rises.

Bennett's pay was boosted from £334,000 to £353,000, while Abramsky got a rise from £304,000 to £322,000.
As a total, the 10-strong BBC executive board is paid £3.72m.

The BBC has cut 1,132 posts in the last year and will cut more than 2,000 over the coming year to achieve its next target of a £112m cost reduction.

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