Belfast Telegraph

BBC NI veterans Austin and McAuley add their names to equal pay call

By Victoria Leonard

Two of Northern Ireland's best-known female journalists have signed a letter to the BBC director-general demanding pay transparency.

Wendy Austin and Linda McAuley are among almost 250 employees calling for it to publish individual salaries and staff benefits to prove it intends to tackle pay inequality.

The letter states: "It's time for full pay transparency at the BBC.

"Transparency about what everyone earns, about how pay is decided, and also about promotion and recruitment across all areas of the Corporation."

The pay furore began last July when a list of BBC staff earning more than £150,000 revealed a pay gap between male and female stars.

Two-thirds of those on the list, including the top seven earners, were men.

However, in a pay review published last month, the BBC said it "found no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making".

It added that it aims "to be the most transparent organisation when it comes to pay".

Director-general Tony Hall pledged that the BBC will "close the gender pay gap and have women in half of our on-air roles by 2020".

Ms Austin, who began her career at BBC NI in 1976, said women shouldn't have to wait another two years for equal pay.

"I always thought I worked for an organisation that was being fair, and it turned out that wasn't the case," she said.

"Tony Hall is saying that there will be equal pay by 2020, but that's not soon enough.

"If you are making substantially less than the guy who sits beside you then two years affects your prospects and your pension - it has a long-term effect."

She said that the "easiest way" to ensure transparency was to publish salaries.

"I think that if there is transparency, everybody knows, and there isn't anything being hidden or the suspicion that things are hidden," she added.

"There are some cases where the person that earns more is not the man, and in that case he has just as much right to equal pay as a woman.

"I think it's brilliant that a lot of men support equal pay.

"Next November it will be 42 years since I started at the BBC.

"It was a different place, but not sufficiently different."

Dr Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission, said that the lack of a Stormont Executive had prevented legislation on gender pay reporting being implemented.

She said: "The law governing equal pay can seem complex, but its essence is very simple - men and women doing equal work for the same employer should get the same reward for it.

"Anyone not complying with this could be challenged by an employee using the protections of the law.

"It is incumbent on all employers, including the BBC, to regularly review and monitor their pay practices, in consultation with their workforce, to ensure that their pay system delivers equal pay.

"In Northern Ireland, the Employment Act (NI) 2016, which provides for the making of the Gender Pay Reporting Regulations, is yet to be enacted due to the lack of a functioning Executive here. It is imperative that these regulations are brought forward in Northern Ireland."

The BBC said it has a project planned to look at transparency in the organisation, including whether all salaries from the licence fee should be published, and other measures that "wouldn't put the BBC at a competitive disadvantage".

"The BBC already publishes more information about itself, its operations and its staff than any other broadcaster," it added.

Belfast Telegraph

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