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Unions Issue Strike Warning to BBC for Queen's 60-Year Jubilee Celebrations

Kate and the Queen - P 2012
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The U.K. public broadcaster faces coverage turmoil for events including a concert featuring Elton John, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

LONDON -- The BBC is contemplating a threat by powerful broadcasting unions to target the pubcaster’s coverage of the Queen’s 60-year diamond jubilee anniversary celebrations in early June.

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The trio of unions -- Bectu, the National Union of Journalists and Unite -- issued a joint statement with the strike threat in light of “high-handed BBC managers” offering a “derisory” 1 percent pay raise.

The unions’ statement also criticized BBC management for contacting staff directly to inform them of plans to bring the 1 percent pay rise two months early in June.

A strike could silence broadcast plans for the Queen’s anniversary concert at Buckingham Palace in June, which is being produced by the BBC.

The lineup for the free concert, which attracted more than 1 million ticket applications, includes Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

The BBC is prepping one of the biggest summers in its broadcasting history with myriad plans and initiatives for the Olympics and the European 2012 soccer championships as well as annual events including Wimbledon tennis, the British Grand Prix and the British Open Golf Championship, all of which follow the Queen's anniversary event.

The extensive celebrations kick off June 2, with the BBC's coverage due to be anchored by newsreader Huw Edwards. The Thames River pageant will take place June 3, followed by the Buckingham Palace concert June 4.

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Then comes a formal service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on June 5, followed by a formal carriage procession.

Gerry Morrissey, Bectu general secretary and BBC unions lead negotiator, described the pubcaster’s offer to employees to bring the pay raise forward as “an act of poor faith” and as a “hostile act.”

“By going over the unions’ heads and increasing our members' salaries before negotiations are concluded, the BBC is very helpfully placing a downpayment in our members' pockets to help them through the forthcoming Jubilee strike,” he said. “It adds injury to the insulting pay offer. The BBC had actually asked us to consult members and had scheduled a meeting on pay with us for next week."

The unions had looked for an increase of 2 percent above inflation, subject to a minimum increase of £1,000 ($1,600).

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the pay award was "derisory with no attempt at genuine negotiation."

A BBC spokesman said: "We are very disappointed that the unions have decided to ballot their members about taking industrial action. The economic climate remains tough for everyone, and this action will not change our circumstances."