Close the pay gap!
THE NUJ's General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet updated July's LFB meeting on the gender pay gap and what can be done about it. The BBC in last year's annual report was "forced to publish" details of high earners on over £150k a year. The "absence of women and Black journalists on that list" and the "issue of gender and pay has been in the news ever since".
A disparity between average earnings for women and for men of 9.3 per cent across the BBC was revealed, provoking outrage that "a public service broadcaster that's supposed to have higher ideals... could behave in this way." (For interesting figures on freelances, see here.)
Some "very high profile presenters", but also women in all stages of their careers - "staff and freelance members and new recruits" - had been cheated of pay and lost out on maternity leave and pension contributions. There have been "a number of cases" where women repeatedly raised concerns but nothing happened. Also, "men have been lied to, told the women on the same couch (presenting a show with them) were paid the same." Often, where male and female presenters co-present a show, the woman is freelance or in a personal service company, while the "guy on the same couch is a staffer".
Such revelations and the responses they generate are "a real opportunity for the NUJ and other unions." After a BBC equal pay audit published in October 2017, then a separate On Air Talent review, the BBC eventually realised it "couldn't just commission an expensive review of some kind". There have been periods where the NUJ has been in "daily meetings" with the BBC.
The NUJ has launched a collective pay grievance with the BBC on behalf of 181 NUJ members in total. These are "in various stages of resolution" - some cases may well end up at an Industrial Tribunal. As a result of NUJ action, there have been "fair pay awards" in the BBC, many in the "tens of thousands of pounds", including a result for former China editor Carrie Gracie. Across the industry, the NUJ has achieved "quick settlements under the pressure generated" by the BBC scandal.
Michelle noted that every newspaper group running daily stories on BBC pay inequality had "a much worse gender pay gap" themselves. At Trinity Mirror it was over 20 per cent, 24.2 per cent at Channel Four, over 25 per cent at the Economist, 24 per cent at the Telegraph. (The UK average is 9.8 per cent.)
The response to these revelations "can only be good news for women workers in the UK." Michelle notes a " spike of members joining" the NUJ, "especially at the BBC," while elsewhere "employers are "on the back foot... they feel exposed."
In its talks on pay equality with the BBC, the NUJ made it clear, as did sister union Bectu, that "we want freelance collective bargaining" - now more achievable than ever. The NUJ Women network will launch in the autumn. Watch this space.
- There's a much longer version here, with links