September 1, 2010 / 6:27 PM / 9 years ago

BBC staff vote for strike over pension overhaul

A tattered flag flies in a strong breeze above the BBC headquarters in London November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - Staff at Britain’s BBC voted on Wednesday to strike in protest against the state-funded broadcaster’s plans to reduce a large pension deficit by capping the growth of pensionable pay, unions said.

Industrial action could yet be averted because unions have delayed the final go-ahead for two weeks to discuss alternative proposals for dealing with the pension problem, they said.

More than 90 percent of union members supported industrial action, the unions representing BBC staff said.

“It is a reflection of the wave of anger and sense of betrayal,” said Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

“BBC management have an opportunity to avoid deeply damaging strike action by guaranteeing the value of pensions already earned and withdrawing their punitive and draconian proposals.”

Staff are opposed to a proposed one percent annual cap on the future growth of pensionable pay and fear other changes could reduce their already-accrued pension in real terms. “The challenges we face with our pension arrangements are acute and our proposals were correspondingly tough,” said BBC Director General Mark Thompson, who has sought to cut costs at the broadcaster by reducing and relocating the workforce.

“We are facing a large pension deficit and must act now to reduce it,” he said in an email to staff.

Reporting by Matt Falloon and Stefano Ambrogi, editing by Mark Trevelyan

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