Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Schedules facing strike disruption

BBC staff and technicians are to stage a 12-hour strike, according to union sources
BBC staff and technicians are to stage a 12-hour strike, according to union sources

The BBC is facing the threat of disruption to its Easter Bank Holiday schedules after unions announced a strike by journalists and technical staff in a dispute over job cuts, workload and claims of harassment.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and technicians' union Bectu will walk out for 12 hours at noon next Thursday, March 28. The move follows votes in favour of stoppages and other forms of action in a long-running row over a cost-cutting programme which will lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs.

The NUJ vote was 61% in favour of stoppages and almost 80% for action short of a strike while backing among Bectu members was 56% and 81%. The two unions have warned that jobs and working conditions are being affected by the Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme.

Planned strikes by NUJ members in Scotland on Saturday and on Monday over the compulsory redundancy row were called off after a deal was agreed to delay the termination dates of staff at risk of losing their jobs.

Gerry Morrissey, leader of Bectu, said: "Staff concerns about overwork and bullying and harassment are genuine, and it's clear to us that any manager who tries to dismiss these concerns is out of touch. Staff at all levels in the BBC are under acute pressure to deliver and the simple truth is that workloads are beginning to take their toll on staff well-being.

"We believe that the BBC needs to take stock of the impact of cuts under DQF and that that time has come. For this assessment to be genuine, all redundancies have to be put on hold and sadly our members have been forced into a strike ballot to press their case."

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, accused the BBC of refusing to accept a suggested six-month moratorium on cuts to allow talks to go ahead. She said: "Members are taking strike action next week in a clear message to the BBC that it needs to listen to its staff and properly address the problems created by their ill-conceived and badly-implemented cuts programme. It is disappointing that once again the BBC has decided not to properly engage, refusing our call for a moratorium to give space for meaningful discussions on the worrying impact of the cuts."

A BBC spokesman said: "We have had constructive meetings with the unions in recent weeks and agree that it is important to monitor how our staff are affected by the savings we are making. However, our position on compulsory redundancies remains the same, we must progress with those given the significant savings we have to make and strike action simply will not change this.

"We continue to work extremely hard to redeploy staff and have already succeeded in redeploying nearly double the number of people that have been made redundant. We hope with such a low turnout and relatively small numbers voting for a strike that the unions will reconsider taking industrial action."

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: "We are very pleased that the NUJ has called off its two-day strike in Scotland which will ensure our audiences continue to enjoy our services. We have said all along that we will make every effort to find alternative employment for staff under threat of redundancy and those efforts are continuing."

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