NUJ backs BBC's Carrie Gracie over equal pay allegations

By agency reporter
January 9, 2018

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has backed Carrie Gracie who has quit her post as the BBC China editor and written an open letter to licence fee payers accusing the corporation of “breaking equality law” and creating a “crisis of trust” at the public service broadcaster.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said: “Given her fearless and determined reporting, providing viewers and listeners with amazing and unparalleled insights into China over the past four years, it’s no surprise that NUJ member Carrie Gracie is not prepared to stay silent about the injustice wrought upon her by her own employer. Her letter to licence fee payers makes it clear what a difficult decision it has been to speak out about what she calls a crisis of trust at the BBC, but why it is vital that the British public are clear about why she has been forced to resign her post as China Editor and return early to London.

“Carrie is one of many women journalists at the BBC who are angry and frustrated that a swifter resolution has not been reached to this scourge of unequal pay at our public service broadcaster. The NUJ is determined to hold the BBC to account and reach proper settlements on behalf of women who have suffered a deficit in salary and pension contributions over many years.”

Last year it was revealed that only a third of a list of those earning £150,000-plus were women and, of the 96 named, only 10 were from black or minority backgrounds. Last month the union lodged a collective grievance on behalf of 121 women who work across the BBC in a variety of roles and grades – on top of a number of individual cases that were already in train.

In her letter, Carrie Gracie said she was dismayed to discover the BBC's two male international editors earned "at least 50 per cent more" than its two female counterparts. When the list of the BBC’s top-earners was published it showed that US editor Jon Sopel earned £200,000-£249,999, while Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen earned £150,000-£199,999. Carrie Gracie did not feature on the list, meaning her salary was less than £150,000.  She said: “My pay is £135,000. The BBC offered to raise that to £180,000, however I was not interested in more money, I was interested in equality. I didn’t feel it was a solution." She said she would be returning to the newsroom in London.

She wrote: "In thirty years at the BBC, I have never sought to make myself the story and never publicly criticised the organisation I love. I am not asking for more money. I believe I am very well paid already – especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally...

"I am a China specialist, fluent in Mandarin and with nearly three decades of reporting the story. Four years ago, the BBC urged me to take the newly created post of China Editor. I knew the job would demand sacrifices and resilience. I would have to work 5000 miles from my teenage children, and in a heavily censored one-party state I would face surveillance, police harassment and official intimidation."I accepted the challenges while stressing to my bosses that I must be paid equally with my male peers. Like many other BBC women, I had long suspected that I was routinely paid less, and at this point in my career, I was determined not to let it happen again. Believing that I had secured pay parity with men in equivalent roles, I set off for Beijing.

"In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors – two men and two women. The Equality Act 2010 states that men and women doing equal work must receive equal pay. But last July I learned that in the previous financial year, both men earned at least 50 per cent more than both women. 

"Despite the BBC’s public insistence that my appointment demonstrated its commitment to gender equality, and despite my own insistence that equality was a condition of taking up the post, my managers had yet again judged that women's work was worth much less than men's."

Michelle Stanistreet  told BBC News that equal pay legislation needs to be developed as many employers continue to flout it and there should be punitive sanctions on employers who do. The BBC, as a public service broadcaster, paid by us, has an even greater duty to ensure women journalists of the same rank as men and those doing work of equal value get parity.

* Read Carrie Gracie's open letter here

* National Union of Journalists


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