January 9, 2007
Union members at news provider
are poised for two days of strike action in defence of pension benefits.
A ballot of BECTU members, which
closed on January 5, showed 54% of them in favour of strike action, with a
participation rate of 68%.
A similar ballot of NUJ members
produced a 67% majority in favour of action, and both unions have given
notice of industrial action on January 16 and January 23.
The first day of action will consist
of a 24-hour stoppage.
Unions have been in talks for several
months about plans to cut
's contribution to its final-salary pension scheme by raising the staff
retirement age from 60 to 65, reducing the rate at which benefits are
built up for some staff, and capping the annual increases paid to
Talks broke down hours before both
sides were due to meet at
in November 2006, when management declared that their proposals were a
final offer, and would not be improved.
Although strike dates were announced
immediately after the ballot closed, the unions have indicated that they
are willing to continue negotiations in the hope of reaching an agreement,
tabling a counter-proposal for management to consider.
This consists of an offer to increase
staff contributions to the pension fund by 2% of salary each year, and to
accept the reduction in accrual rate from 1/50ths to 1/60ths, in return
for company concessions on the retirement age and capped pensions.
Early indications from the company
were that it might be willing to meet the unions to discuss the
counter-proposal, but strike dates remain in place.
Meetings of members at
have supported the unions' efforts to re-start talks, but also expressed
determination to go ahead with strike action if necessary.
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