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Siemens' IT workers ballot for strike action at Beeb

Iced pay packets cold-shouldered by disgruntled staff

Siemens IT staff working at the BBC are mulling possible strike action over a planned pay freeze by the tech firm.

Bectu said it was sending out ballot papers to members today, in which the broadcasting union recommends industrial action.

The ballot will close on 19 March and followed Siemens' decision to bring in a pay freeze for employees working on its 10-year Beeb contract.

Bectu said more than 70 BBC contract staff had been laid off by Siemens, which provides technology, transmission and IT services to the Corporation.

“This pay freeze comes as a real double whammy for our members; with the level of redundancies that we’ve already endured, and continue to face, it’s not even as if a pay freeze is safeguarding jobs," Bectu National official Suresh Chawla said today.

“Whilst colleagues within the BBC, and in other service partner companies, are receiving modest pay increases and with inflation now hitting 3.7 per cent, Siemens’ position is untenable. We have no option but to ballot our members for industrial action. We hope to be able to resume talks with the employer once they’re able to make an offer.”

Around 1,440 BBC Technology staff were transferred to Siemens Business Services in October 2004, following the completion of a major 10-year £2bn Technology Framework Contract (TFC), which received approval from then Culture minister Tessa Jowell.

At the time Bectu fought the sale claiming it was "not just the BBC selling off one of its Crown Jewels," but "a case of handing its central nervous system over to the private sector".

In June 2007 the Public Accounts Committee said the BBC failed to ensure it got best value when it outsourced its IT department to Siemens.

At the time, the public spending watchdog claimed BBC executives misled the board of governors about possible savings while trying to convince them to give the deal the go-ahead.

Bectu said separately today that it was in talks with Siemens about the company's plans to outsource over 50 server-based jobs to Romania. ®

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