BBC chief stands firm on strikes

Journalists' union offers to delay action

BBC topper Mark Thompson is playing hardball with the pubcaster’s disaffected journalists, refusing to enter new talks in the dispute over pension changes “no matter how much industrial action there is.”

Last week, members of the National Union of Journalists disrupted domestic BBC news and public affairs shows during a 48-hour walkout.

Another strike is planned for next Monday and Tuesday, with the threat of more walkouts over Christmas and the New Year.

In an email to staff, Thompson appeared determined to tough out the spat over pension cuts, designed to reduce the deficit in the pension fund.

Saying the BBC had already settled with four out of five of the BBC unions, he added that the Corp. would not contemplate changes to the agreed offer on pension reform “no matter how much industrial action there is from the NUJ.”

Thompson played down the impact of last week’s walkout and claimed the BBC was prepared to minimize the effects of more strikes.

NUJ leader Jeremy Dear has said he would call off industrial action if the BBC agrees to postpone changes to the pension plan until it knows the size of the deficit, believed to be £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) and to be assessed in the first quarter of 2011.

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