BBC IT services contractors, employed by Siemens, are balloting on strike action.
The contractors are concerned about a pay freeze, announced in recent weeks, as well as redundancies. In the four months to January, 70 Siemens contractors working at the broadcaster were made redundant. The media trade union Bectu believes 50 further staff who work on server management could now be at risk as Siemens considers offshoring their roles to Romania.
The vote is for a one day strike to take place in late March or early April.
The contractors work on a £2 billion outsourcing agreement, signed by the BBC five years ago after the sale of its own technology wing. Siemens provides all IT, technology and transmission services to the broadcaster.
Calling the pay freeze and redundancies a “double whammy” for staff, Bectu said it was “not even as if a pay freeze is safeguarding jobs”. The ballot runs until 19 March.
Suresh Chawla, national official at Bectu, criticised the pay freezes. “Whilst colleagues within the BBC, and in other service partner companies, are receiving modest pay increases and with inflation now hitting 3.7 percent, Siemens’ position is untenable,” he said.
The trade union had “no option but to ballot our members for industrial action”, he said, urging Siemens to return to talks.
It is not the first time the staff have considered strikes. Three years ago, around 3,400 IT and business processing staff employed by outsourcing firm Siemens secured four percent pay rises after threatening industrial action.
Siemens’ work at the BBC has also been heavily criticised in the past. In 2007, the BBC set up a technology partnership board to monitor the outsourcer, following a report by MPs that revealed 60 percent of the key technology projects in the deal's first year suffered delays or went over budget.