Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Video: BBC counts cost of strike with more disruption in the pipeline

BBC radio and TV programmes were disrupted yesterday because of a strike by journalists and technical staff in a row over jobs, workload and claims of bullying, with threats of further stoppages to come.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the technicians' union Bectu walked out of offices and studios across the UK at noon and will follow the action with a work to rule.

The strike lasted until midnight and led to the cancellation of BBC 2's Newsnight, Radio 4's PM and World Tonight, pre-recorded interviews being used on the news channel as well as other changes.

Unions mounted picket lines outside BBC centres, including New Broadcasting House in central London, where strikers held up banners and wore badges which read Fight For The BBC.

The unions were protesting at the so-called Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme which will lead to 2,000 job losses.

The BBC apologised for disruption caused by the strike but said it could not agree to union calls for compulsory job losses to be postponed.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the NUJ, who joined strikers in London, said workers were sending a clear message to the BBC that it needed to address problems created by the "ill-conceived and badly-implemented" cuts.

She said: "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. The DQF plans remain on the table, regardless of the consequence for workload and stress levels.

"We know that the cuts are already having an impact on the quality of work. We know that it is leading to unacceptable workloads and stress.

"We know that management is using DQF as a means to harass and bully staff - making worse an already entrenched problem of bullying that has been largely ignored by those in positions of power."

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of Bectu, told the strikers that a meeting had been arranged with new BBC director general Tony Hall next month, when he will be urged to try to renegotiate the licence fee with the Government.

He said: "Our members are suffering because the BBC thinks it can deliver the same levels of output with many fewer staff.

 "The reality is that excessive workloads caused by massive job cuts are already taking their toll, with staff reporting more stress, more bullying and more harassment.

 "The BBC has a duty of care which it is not exercising currently and it is great pity that strike action is needed to make senior managers take the issues seriously."

He said further strikes will be held unless the deadlock is broken.

 The NUJ and Bectu have called for a six-month moratorium on job cuts to allow for a review of workplace issues.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed that the unions have gone ahead with the strike and apologise to our audiences for the disruption to services.

"We have had constructive meetings with the unions in recent weeks and whilst we're unable to postpone planned compulsory redundancies for six months as they requested, we do agree that stress and workload are areas of real concern.

"If workloads are going up because of the pressures of working in a 24/7 digital media environment and implementing savings, it's in everyone's interest to understand the issues and work with individuals, their managers and the unions to address it."

Union officials warned that the work to rule will hit programmes, with staff sticking to their hours and refusing to work over their shifts.

 

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