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Garvey, grievance queen of the BBC


WHENEVER a BBC woman goes public with a claim for backdated pay, she can rely upon the sisterly support of Corporation colleague Jane Garvey. Most recently, the presenter of Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 was seen cheerleading at the employment tribunal brought by Samira Ahmed, who believes she would have received an extra £700,000 had her name been Jeremy Vine

While the tribunal deliberates, Jane Garvey continues to test the patience of BBC bosses by sniping at her employer. The latest instance, first heard a few days ago, was her guest appearance on the podcast How To Fail With Elizabeth Day.

One of Garvey’s self-confessed faults was her ‘failure to appreciate fully what women were really up against in terms of equal pay at the BBC’.

It transpires that when they seek colossal payouts, the BBC sisters are doin’ it not for themselves – perish the thought. No, according to Garvey: ‘I had been completely blind to what was happening around me and if it was happening to me, a white middle-class woman with vocal skills, what the hell would be happening to women of colour  . . . to women now juggling three or four zero-hour contract jobs and trying to bring up their children in inadequate social housing?’ 

To the cynics who doubt Garvey’s sincerity and believe that the BBC’s female fortune-seekers are motivated only by self-interest, her message is: ‘It’s because we have a voice at the BBC that I feel this absolute fervour, the closest I’ve ever come to fervour in my life.’ 

Crikey. Touchingly, we learn from Garvey that the metropolitan matrons at the BBC were inspired by other equality campaigns for female council employees and supermarket workers: ‘If women like that have done it, then for us to not even try to cause a stink would just be the most appalling failure.’ 

In the recording, Garvey specifically referred to actions involving staff at the city councils of Glasgow and Birmingham, and earlier this year at Asda. However, those cases were not about women being paid less for doing the same job (which has been illegal for 50 years): those disputes arose from distinct jobs being differently graded for pay and bonuses.

Is a care assistant directly comparable with a refuse collector? Does a checkout operator deserve the same as a warehouse worker? It is for debate whether female-dominated roles deserve parity with other work which often is more physically demanding, dirtier and more dangerous. But whatever the respective merits of staff employed by the same council or in different departments of the same supermarket, the arbitrary announcement by Samira Ahmed that she ought to have received the same recompense as Jeremy Vine is a preposterous parallel. 

Yet Elizabeth Day, the podcast host, blithely referred to ‘equivalent male presenter’ as though the comparability is unquestionable fact. She concluded the segment with: ‘We stand with Samira and more power to her.’

Garvey also griped that the BBC’s male presenters let down their female colleagues: ‘It would have been really good if some of the high-profile men at the BBC, not necessarily those with daughters but yes, even better if they do have daughters and have skin in the old gender game in the years ahead, had actually pitched in and said, “We back you and we get this”.’

Jane has become forgetful. In fact, soon after the Beeb’s pay disparities first became apparent, some of the most prominent BBC blokes voluntarily took substantial reductions and publicly conceded that the wage gaps were indefensible. The penitents who took a pay cut included the aforementioned Jeremy Vine: ‘I support my female colleagues who have rightly said they should be paid the same when they’re doing the same job. It’s just a no-brainer, so it wasn’t a problem for me to accept one.’

Hearing her harangue ‘high-profile men at the BBC’ two years later, Vine and his fellow apologists must wonder why they bothered. During 2017-2018 Jane Garvey earned just over £150,000;  oddly, she seems unconcerned that this was less than half of what the BBC paid fellow female radio presenters Vanessa Feltz and Lauren Laverne. But heaven help the men who earn similar amounts.

She even used Day’s podcast to single out one man in particular, prompting the Mirror headline: ‘Jane Garvey wishes ex-husband Adrian Chiles stood up for female BBC colleagues.’ 

The ‘BBC’s golden couple’ were married for ten years and separated in 2008, long before the first publication of a pay list exposed the pay differentials within the BBC. Nonetheless, it seems Garvey regards her ex as one of the ‘men at the BBC [who] could have done a lot more to help . . . I have talked to him about it’. 

Or perhaps that should read: ‘I talked at him about it’? Garvey told Elizabeth Day: ‘Adrian has got two daughters, so I know he would hate to be thought of as someone who didn’t understand the complexities of all this and wasn’t onside.’

Ms Passive-Aggressive aimed that low blow at the father of her children who, as far as we know, has been a punctilious parent. Garvey also bemoaned how her twilight years will be impoverished because of the baleful BBC: ‘I will have retired not having earned as much as very many of my male counterparts as presenters. Equivalent male broadcasters to me will have earned more than me, will have very different retirements [and] will have very different prospects financially in the rest of their lives.’

Fear not, Jane. Should you be struggling to make ends meet, those ‘women now juggling three or four zero-hour contract jobs’, for whom you ‘feel this absolute fervour’, will gratefully organise a whip-round.

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day, featuring guest Jane Garvey, can be heard here. The section on BBC pay begins at 27:30.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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