Threat of strike action after BBC bosses receive pay rises

Last updated at 18:34 07 July 2006

The BBC was facing the threat of strikes tonight after the disclosure that its bosses pocketed bumper pay rises last year at a time when thousands of workers faced redundancy.

Director-general Mark Thompson saw his pay packet rise by £160,000 from £459,000 to £619,000 while his fellow executives also enjoyed significant pay rises.

Mr Thompson waived his right to receive a bonus, although his colleagues did not.

Director of television Jana Bennett was paid £353,000 inclusive of benefits and bonus. Her basic pay rose from £255,000 to £321,000.

Jenny Abramsky, director of radio and music, saw her basic pay rise from £233,000 to £295,000 - taking her total wage to £322,000 with benefits and bonus.

Broadcasting unions warned that news of the pay rises would trigger a ballot for industrial action.

Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of Bectu, said: "It is extremely arrogant for the senior management team to award themselves huge pay increases in the same year that they made 3,000 staff redundant and closed the final salary pension scheme to new staff."

Bectu official Luke Crawley added: "It seems that senior management have one set of rules for themselves and another for the 26,000 people they employ.

"I am confident that today's announcement will reinforce the opinion of union members that industrial action is needed to protect their pay and pension provision."

Paul McLaughlin, broadcasting officer of the National Union of Journalists, said: "Executives at the BBC are washing themselves in a Jacuzzi of cash while staff suffer a drought."

Union leaders will meet on Monday to consider their response to moves by the BBC to close its final salary pension scheme to new members and to increase the retirement age.

Officials said today's announcement, coupled with a pay offer of 2.6% for staff, made it more likely that a strike ballot will be held.

Deputy director-general Mark Byford was the best paid executive after Mark Thompson.

His total take-home pay was £456,000, including a basic wage of £403,000 - up from £351,000 the previous year.

Some 1,132 posts have already been closed, with more than 2,000 to go next year.

The BBC said the pay hikes were part of a two-year process to bring executives' base pay up to the market median.

While base pay has risen, bonus potential has been reduced from 30 per cent to 10 per cent.

BBC chairman Michael Grade said: "The governors believe the BBC's executive pay policy now properly reflects our combined duty to licence fee payers and our responsibility as employers."

Mr Thompson, who was launching the BBC's annual report, said he waived his right to a bonus for the second year running out of respect for staff facing redundancy.

"It was for the same reason I didn't take a bonus last year.

"I wouldn't have felt right putting myself forward for a bonus as the architect of a programme which is having a big impact on the organisation," he said.

"But I believe and indeed urged my executive colleagues that they should put themselves forward for a bonus and be rewarded in the normal way.

"People are working very hard and achieving a lot through this change process."

Mr Thompson's salary for the previous year was not for a full year.

Stephen Dando, the now departed former head of human resources and one of the architects of the job cuts, saw his salary rise from £245,000 to £292,000.

The biggest bonus was £80,000 to BBC Worldwide boss John Smith - taking his total take-home pay to £444,000.

At the same time as the salary packages were unveiled, the BBC also announced that it collected record levels of licence fee revenue last year.

Income topped £3billion for the first time thanks in part to a drop in the number of people evading payment.

The BBC has asked the Government for a yearly licence fee increase of 2.3 per cent above inflation, taking the cost of a colour licence to an estimated £180 by 2013.

The settlement is expected to be announced in the autumn.

James Frayne, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers are getting a bad deal from the BBC. Viewing figures have gone down, but they are demanding more money from licence fee payers and awarding senior management huge pay rises."

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