BBC unions discuss further action

The BBC may face further industrial action this year if it and the unions cannot reach a compromise over compulsory redundancies being proposed by BBC management.

BBC union reps were meeting on Wednesday to discuss plans for further industrial action as more than 200 journalists, producers and technical staff face the sack.

Reps from the BBC’s three unions, including the NUJ, were meeting in advance of crunch talks between BBC director general Mark Thompson and senior union negotiators on Thursday.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear called on the BBC to “go the extra mile for peace”.

Dear said: “After months of tough and intensive negotiations across the whole of the BBC many key issues have now been resolved. The BBC risk throwing all that progress away by their unreasonable insistence on compulsory redundancies.

“We have shown time and time again during these negotiations that we are prepared to go the extra mile to try to resolve these issues through negotiation – the BBC management must now show the same commitment.”

The talks have reached agreement on financial savings and other changes, including voluntary redundancies, which Dear said amounted to hundreds of journalists’ posts being lost. But there are still around 200 jobs the BBC is insisting will be axed. Key problem areas include BBC Scotland, BBC Wales, Factual and Learning and News.

Dear added: “We will not stand back and watch the BBC force out skilled and talented staff. It is up to the BBC to act now to avoid further industrial action.

‘We remain hopeful that the talks will bring peace, but remain prepared to act if forced to do so by the BBC’s intransigence and failure to grasp this massive opportunity.”

More than 13,000 BBC staff took strike action in May last year as part of a campaign against almost 4,000 job cuts planned by director general Mark Thompson. Under an ACAS agreement unions secured a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 12 months and a commitment to talks to address concerns over job cuts and workloads.

BBC language service cuts

NUJ members and supporters lobbied Parliament on Tuesday to demand an urgent rethink of plans to cut 10 of the BBC’s 43 language services.

The BBC announced the cuts to the World Service at the same time as confirming plans for an Arabic television service which will create 200 jobs. But the planned closure of the foreign language services means loosing 270 international specialists, mostly across Eastern Europe.

NUJ members are determined to persuade MPs that the cuts are shortsighted and unpopular, especially in countries such as Thailand and Croatia, where the BBC has many loyal listeners.

Several of the language services being closed – Bulgarian, Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak, Sloven and Kazakh – have already stopped broadcasting, but the NUJ is stressing that none of the cuts are irreversible.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “It is not too late for a change of heart.

The government must wake up and realise that these services are incredibly important to these countries, especially those that are emerging democracies.

“The staff employed by the BBC in these services have unique and irreplaceable expertise that is about to be lost. We are urging MPs to put pressure on the government to think again.”

“Money saved by the cuts will be used to help fund a new Arabic television news channel. We are not opposed to this, but we believe the government should at least provide the initial funding rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

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