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NUJ eases off strike threat after STV pledges to avoid compulsory redundancies as it looks to cut staff

By Charlotte Tobitt

National Union of Journalism members at STV have voted overwhelmingly to strike over plans to cut almost 60 jobs at the Scottish broadcaster.

However, union members will not take immediate action after STV backed down on plans to impose compulsory redundancies.

STV announced in May that it would cut 34 news jobs as part of a three-year restructure and growth plan called STV News 2020.

It said another 25 jobs would be lost with the closure of the loss-making STV2 channel – which features the news programmes STV News Tonight, STV News at One and Scottish Politics This Week – at the end of June.

Press Gazette understands that the total number of roles at risk has reduced during the consultation process to about 50, but that the number is fluctuating on an almost daily basis.

Not all those affected are journalists, with technical staff, who are represented by union BECTU, also at risk. BECTU members have not been balloted over the changes at STV.

The result of a ten-day ballot by the NUJ, published yesterday, showed that 80 staff members voted for industrial action including a strike, and just one voted against.

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A total of ninety-nine members of staff were eligible to take part in the ballot, meaning there was a participation rate of 81.8 per cent.

NUJ Scotland organiser John Toner said: “We are delighted with the ballot result. A vote of 98.8 per cent in favour of industrial action is a considerable show of solidarity, and demonstrates our members’ commitment to resisting compulsory redundancies.

“The consultation process will continue, and we look forward to learning in more detail from STV management their proposals and how they will maintain quality in the new set-up.”

An STV spokesperson confirmed that the broadcaster was told by the NUJ yesterday that its members would not be pursuing industrial action.

They said: “We are making good progress through the ongoing consultation process as we work towards the implementation of our future plans for STV News.”

Press Gazette understands individual discussions with staff are continuing and the consultation process is due to close on 29 June.

Certain roles, including in some STV2 news programming which will continue on the main channel, will be reviewed again in August and December.

BECTU’s Scottish negotiations officer Paul McManus, representing technical staff affected by the changes, said: “The discussions are still very much live and nobody’s being faced with being kicked out of the door.”

He added that BECTU members have been “very clear” that if it gets to the stage where anyone is at risk of compulsory redundancy, they will move to a ballot for industrial action.

STV chief executive Simon Pitts told the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee on 7 June that he was unable to rule out compulsory redundancies.

However he added that he was hopeful to minimise them through voluntary redundancies.

He said at the time: “Obviously we hope to avoid industrial action if at all possible, I don’t think that’s what anyone wants.

“We are engaged in an extensive consultation with our teams and with the unions, we are providing lots of information in order for the team to make informed decisions.”

Pitts also said he understood the decisions being made were “difficult for the people concerned” but added that they were “necessary in order to build for the future”.

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