BBC union to meet Siemens, after vote to strike

Media trade union Bectu and Siemens are "back around the table" after the union revealed that a majority of its BBC IT services contractors had voted in favour of strike action.

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Media trade union Bectu and Siemens are "back around the table" after the union revealed that a majority of its BBC IT services contractors had voted in favour of strike action.

The strike will not take place if the the talks result in an agreement. A one-day strike at the broadcaster would have taken place in late March or early April.

The results of the ballot, calculated in the last hour, showed that 65 percent voted in favour of a strike. Additionally, 80 percent of members voted for action short of a strike.

"We relayed that [the ballot results] to Siemens and there’s going to be a meeting next Wednesday,” said Suresh Chawla, national officer at Bectu.

"We’re obviously pleased, if that’s the right word for it, about getting them back around the table. We want to reach an agreement to avoid industrial action."

The dispute relates to a pay freeze and between 60 and 80 planned redundancies of roles in server management, as Siemens considers offshoring their roles to Romania.

So far, Siemens has agreed to a non-binding trawl, from 12 April, for volunteers from its unaffected areas, in order to maximise the number of voluntary redundancies.

"We want to avoid any compulsory redundancies," said Chawla.

Suresh said that yesterday’s announcement of 4,200 job cuts in Siemens' global IT division had little effect on the situation at the BBC.

"The damage has been done," he said.

In the four months to January, 70 Siemens contractors working at the BBC were made redundant.

The Siemens 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.

It is not the first time the staff have considered strikes. Three years ago, around 3,400 IT and business processing staff employed by 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.

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