Tour Guide Industrial Dispute
Director, Marketing and Audiences
BBC tour guides at Broadcasting House are taking strike action today. I’m disappointed about this as we have recently had some positive discussions and I know how keen both sides are to resolve the situation. However I’m pleased to say that we have still been able to accommodate everyone who had pre-booked a tour so visitors haven’t been affected.
There are two issues in dispute. Firstly the reduction of the length of shifts following the move of tours from Television Centre to Broadcasting House – this is because the tours are shorter meaning that the potential earnings each month is lower. The tours are shorter because the building is smaller and there are different retail and security arrangements. However even with the shorter hours available, guides will still have the opportunity to work significantly more hours than they are contracted to do depending on how may shifts they sign up for.
Guides are only contracted for 6.25 hours (i.e. one shift) per month. Many choose to do more shifts than that and to date we have always worked that way as it suited both sides. Our requirements fluctuate slightly depending on how many tours we are offering each month, and many of the guides have other freelance work such as acting and this type of contract allows them to easily take time away from the BBC to pursue other jobs when it suits them.
Unfortunately there is no getting away from the fact that shorter tours means a financial impact for the guides because there are less overall hours available to work. Put simply, I don’t believe that we can justify paying tour guides from the licence fee for hours they are not working. Around a third of the costs of running the tours comes from the licence fee and we must ensure that money is used appropriately.
Secondly we are asking the guides to wear a uniform. Our other tour guides round the UK already do this and we believe it is appropriate that, as the face of the BBC, they wear BBC branded clothes while working with members of the public.
Any strike action is regrettable and it will not alter these facts. We remain open to discussions with the guides and we are already looking at a number of suggestions they made at a meeting last week so we are hopeful that progress can be made.
Philip Almond is Director of BBC Marketing and Audiences.