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Solid support for BBC journalists strike

15 July 2011

Thousands of BBC journalists have held a 24-hour strike against compulsory redundancies. The NUJ has accused the corporation's managers of wilfully avoiding talks which could have averted the stoppage.

A further strike is due on 1 August.

Programmes were cancelled across the BBC networks, including the prestigious Newsnight and Any Questions, and many guests and interviewees refused to participate in recordings. Regular output was severely disrupted by the 15 July strike and one radio service even rebroadcast news bulletins from the previous day.

Radio 4's flagship World at One, PM and The World Tonight were off-air and the Today programme was broadcast an hour late, while the BBC1 Breakfast Show was replaced by a feed from the BBC News channel.

Most of the BBC's best-known radio and television journalists joined their colleagues on strike.

One striker commented:

"Management has had to draft in some ambitious, but uncomfortable, third-division replacements who foolishly believe that undermining their colleagues will help their careers."

BBC journalists on strike in Belfast ©Private
BBC journalists on strike in Belfast ©Private
Colleagues from other unions joined NUJ  picket line in Glasgow ©Private
Colleagues from other unions join NUJ picket line in Glasgow ©Private
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, joined early morning London NUJ pickets ©Jess Hurd
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, joined early morning London
NUJ pickets ©Jess Hurd
NUJ members on strike at BBC Cardiff ©Brian Morgan
NUJ members on strike at BBC Cardiff ©Brian Morgan
Solidarity lightened the midnight gloom as BBC Arabic journalists went on strike ©Private
Solidarity lightened the midnight gloom as BBC Arabic journalists
went on strike ©Private
Rally at Bush House to support the strike ©Jess Hurd
Rally at Bush House to support the strike ©Jess Hurd
Strike at BBC Radio Oxford ©Private
Strike at BBC Radio Oxford ©Private
Strikers at BBC Coventry & Warwickshire ©Private
Strikers at BBC Coventry & Warwickshire ©Private
Strikers at BBC Langham Place in London ©Private
Strikers at BBC Langham Place in London ©Private
Picketline at BBC Bristol ©Simon Chapman
Picketline at BBC Bristol ©Simon Chapman
Picket at BBC Stoke ©Private
Picket at BBC Stoke ©Private
Strikers at BBC Radio Cumbria ©Private
Strikers at BBC Radio Cumbria ©Private
BBC Glasgow rally ©Private
BBC Glasgow rally ©Private
Determined NUJ strikers at BBC Birmingham ©Private
Determined NUJ strikers at BBC Birmingham ©Private
Donnacha DeLong, NUJ president, and Sue Harris, broadcasting organiser,  join midnight picket at Bush House ©Andrew Harris
Donnacha DeLong, NUJ president, and Sue Harris, broadcasting
organiser, join midnight picket at Bush House ©Andrew Harris
NUJ members at BBC Monitoring on strike ©Private
NUJ members at BBC Monitoring on strike ©Private
NUJ members on strike at BBC Scotland ©Private
NUJ members on strike at BBC Scotland ©Private
Panorama investigative journalist Murdoch Rodgers's topical message on the picket line in Glasgow ©Private
Panorama investigative journalist Murdoch Rodgers's topical
message on the picket line in Glasgow ©Private
Tony Benn joins NUJ members and Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, on the BBC picket line at Television Centre © Donnacha DeLong
Tony Benn joins NUJ members and Michelle Stanistreet, general
secretary, on the BBC picket line at Television Centre
©Donnacha DeLong
Members on strike at BBC Television Centre ©Private
Members on strike at BBC Television
Centre ©Private

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, joined the picket line at BBC Television Centre in London at midnight on Thursday as journalists walked out to begin their industrial action. NUJ members at BBC national, regional and local centres across the UK joined the 24-hour stoppage.

At BBC offices and centres throughout the UK, journalists mounted pickets and they reported enthusiastic support from the public for the union campaign against compulsory redundancies.

Reports from NUJ picket lines across the UK showed that the strike was solid, with notable stoppages in Manchester, Newcastle, Hull, Birmingham, Leicester, Coventry, Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Derry and Belfast.

BBC journalists reported:

"Members are on strike across the UK, from Ipswich to Derry and down to Jersey. Massive support in Scotland and Wales. Solidarity from Unison, Unite, the CWU and Unison, plus the PCS in Cambridge and Coventry."

Distinguished film-maker, Ken Loach, told the NUJ:

"I have refused to appear on Radio Bristol to promote a showing of the film, Hidden Agenda, at Bath City FC.
"The NUJ is absolutely right to fight compulsory redundancies at the BBC – and the bottom line is: never cross a picket line."

Ken Loach later wrote to BBC director general, Mark Thompson: "It is regrettable that the BBC has refused to go to Acas to negotiate with the NUJ and has instead declared it will make some journalists redundant.

"I, like others, have refused to be interviewed by the BBC today because we refuse to work with strike-breakers.
"You should cherish those who work at the BBC because it is they who make the programmes. Your own contribution, on current form, is rather less valuable."

National messages of support also came from Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Transport Salaried Staffs Association and the Prison Officers Association. MPs also expressed support for the union's action. Read some of the messages.

Tony Benn and MPs John McDonnell, Dave Anderson, Keith Vaz, Kelvin Hopkins and Katy Clark were among those who gave NUJ pickets their full support.

Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists', said:

"The massive support for this strike shows the journalists' understandable frustration caused by the management's appalling behaviour.

"There is simply no basis for the BBC's refusal to engage with journalists' representatives in resolving this dispute and saving jobs. This attitude is not acceptable and we fully support our colleagues' action."

Michelle Stanistreet explained the reasons for the strike:

"Union representatives have tried hard to resolve this serious dispute through negotiation. We have even agreed to use the ACAS conciliation service to try to find a way forward. But BBC senior management has shown no real interest in negotiations. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that BBC management wanted thousands of its journalists to go on strike tomorrow, rather than settle the dispute.
"If that is the case it confirms our members' worst fears about the management strategy of introducing compulsory redundancy at the BBC. The massive vote for strike action by journalists across the BBC reflected their fear for the future as well as their solidarity with colleagues already being targeted and singled out for the sack.
"Management indifference to settling our dispute suggests that our members' concern that many more redundancies are planned is fully justified.
"We offered to meet the BBC, and asked management to extend the leaving dates of those individuals immediately affected by redundancy in order to allow the talks to take place. Management refused. We also offered to meet with the BBC at ACAS today. Management refused.
"By the deliberate BBC decision to provoke this strike action, journalists will lose a day’s pay and audiences suffer for a dispute that is so easily avoidable. The BBC stance looks stubborn and provocative. It seems commonsense has been replaced by obstinacy.
"The BBC is a crucial public service yet BBC management has clearly set its face against the negotiation process and is prepared to push through these unfair cuts at the expense of staff, and without caring about the impact upon millions of listeners and viewers.  We have given the BBC five simple ways to stop the strike, all of which have been refused:
  • Extend the leaving dates of those immediately at risk to allow for further talks
  • Agree to release volunteers
  • Cut the red tape when it comes to redeployment and make it happen
  • Use vacant posts to offset the costs of employing those at risk
  • Apply fairness across the BBC and treat people the same - wherever they work
"These cuts and job losses have been brought about directly by a decision to freeze the licence fee for the next six years. This was a shabby deal done by BBC management and the government behind closed doors last Autumn, with no democratic scrutiny or transparent discussion. We know Rupert Murdoch and News International executives were exerting huge influence on key government figures.
"The hastily reached deal marked a watershed in the Corporation’s history and has led to the axing of vital language services at the BBC World Service and the imposition of 20 per cent spending cuts across the BBC. 
"It is vital that the dodgy licence fee deal should now be re-examined as a matter of urgency in light of recent developments. The deal should be undone and there should be the proper transparent and open debate with staff and stakeholders about the future funding of the BBC that was called for – and ignored by the government – at the time.
"The BBC, as a public sector broadcaster, has an obligation to the public to accept its share of responsibility to resolve a dispute which it has created and to act responsibly to seek a resolution."

Strikers at the BBC won't crumble – NUJ President Donnacha DeLong writes about the strike on the Guardian's Comment is Free


Journalists and trade unionists across the UK and beyond expressed support for the NUJ strikers at the BBC.

On behalf of the Public and Commercial Services union we send our full solidarity and support to your members at the BBC who are striking to protect jobs and quality journalism.
BBC management's decision to try to force journalists out of their jobs is an outrage, particularly at a time when the scandal engulfing News International proves that balanced, ethical and well-resourced journalism is clearly needed more than ever.
Your action will send a clear message that compulsory redundancies are unacceptable, unnecessary and unfair, and that there is an alternative
Instead of forcing people out of work, putting standards and the BBC's core principles at risk, the management should tackle the waste and unfair pay that continues to blight the corporation.
Alongside the welfare state and other public services - attacks on which we are having to fight off daily - the BBC is one of our nation's finest achievements, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the NUJ and others who are striking to protect it.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary
Janice Godrich, national president

Best wishes to NUJ members on strike. Some of us really are all in this together.

Dave Anderson MP

I fully support the BBC journalists in their action today, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them as a member of the NUJ Parliamentary Group of MPs.

Kelvin Hopkins MP, Luton North

I would like to offer my support to BBC journalists taking industrial action today. The proposed BBC's staff cuts will not only harm those who lose their jobs but undermine the BBC's position as a leading news provider in the UK. I offer NUJ workers every success in the action they take today and urge the BBC to go back to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

Katy Clark MP, North Ayrshire and Arran

The BFAWU would urge the management board of the BBC to get around the table with our colleagues of the NUJ in an effort to avert the need for damaging industrial action. Failing this we will urge all our officials and activists to refuse to give any interviews, irrespective of the subject to the BBC until such time as advised by the NUJ. We also send a message of support and solidarity to our NUJ comrades taking the bold stance of industrial action in defence of their jobs.

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union

On behalf of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association I send our full solidarity and support to your members at the BBC who are striking to protect their jobs.
The decision to force journalists at the BBC into compulsory redundancy is yet another sign of the ruthless opportunism of employers egged on by this disaster of a ConDem government. At a time when we are all in this together it is important that workers support each other in struggle and on behalf of my union I wish the NUJ every success in its battle against the latest attack on our public services and workers who deserve so much better.

Gerry Doherty, TSSA General Secretary

The Prison Officers Association fully support the NUJ in their struggle and therefore we have instructed all POA officials nationally and locally not to do interviews for radio or tv in relation to BBC.

Steve Gillan, General Secretary, Prison Officers Association

Please convey to your members the support of the Communication Workers Union for NUJ members taking industrial action against compulsory redundancies in the World Service and BBC Monitoring. We hope that you are able to secure the agreement that your members deserve.

Billy Hayes, General Secretary, Communication Workers Union

Journalists working for all of the major newspapers in South Wales declared support for their broadcast colleagues. They noted that in the last 10 years more than 7,000 journalists have left the BBC with no recourse to complusory redundancies and, while condemning any reductions in staffing levels, urged BBC management to negotiate with the union to find alternative ways of implementing workforce changes.
The members of the National Union of Journalists Cardiff and South East Wales branch, including journalists from the Western Mail, Wales on Sunday, South Wales Echo, Celtic Newspapers, the South Wales Argus, along with members working in public relations and freelance journalists, also gave their support to journalists employed by Johnston Press who are taking industrial action at South Yorkshire Newspapers from this Friday in response to compulsory redundancies.
The journalist expressed their solidarity in recognition of the widespread cuts across the newspaper industry, including Wales, which, they argue are imposed by the owners of the giant newspaper groups with little regard for the vital role newspapers play in supporting local communties, businesses and safeguarding the judicial and democratic process.
The journalists agreed to offer any practical assistance to their striking colleagues on Friday. They also agreed to lobby politicians, the wider trade union movement and the public to help raise awareness that cuts in funding for broadcast and press journalism, the reduction in pluralism in the media and the concentration of ownership in a small number of giant corporations contributed to the democratic deficit in Wales and the rest of the UK.

Solidarity from NUJ members in South Wales.

White Horse (Wilts) Trades Union Council sends you our support and good wishes for the strike ahead. It is more important than ever that Trades Unionists stand together in the face of the vicious attacks from this Government, and you can be assured of our continued support.
We wish you every success,

Carole Vallelly, Secretary, White Horse (Wilts) Trades Union Council

As a former BBC employee, serving 19 years with the corporation, I shall be watching and supporting the NUJ action from Buenos Aires where I lingered after taking voluntary redundancy two years ago. Rest assured, I shall not be filing on that day.
I still get BBC emails and am struck by how often management repeat the mantra 'there is no alternative.' Yet that lie was exposed, remarkably, by Chris Patten when he highlighted the ridiculous number of BBC managers earning ridiculous amounts.
There are plenty of alternatives and viewing the situation with the objectivity that distance, both geographically and employment wise, can bring, that seems quite blatantly apparent.
Warmest regards,

Daniel Schweimler, NUJ member, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Paris Branch NUJ, which organises almost 350 journalists throughout France, including in broadcasting, welcomes the big vote for industrial action at the BBC and expresses its support for and solidarity with NUJ members and officials in your fight for justice and jobs, against compulsory redundancies and for an alternative for all BBC journalists and other employees.
Yours in solidarity,

Simon Coss, Chair
Jim Pollard, Vice Chair

Congratulations on your strike from the North East Shop Stewards' Network. Details of when and where to support three NE picket lines are on our website and we would welcome details of any more. NESSN has recently published a very successful handbook called Going on Strike, and we feel sure that Robert Tressell must be revolving in his grave at the fact that Murdoch's HarperCollins publishes The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Dave Harker, Secretary, NESSN

Sorry can't be on the picket line to support you brothers and sisters but I'm at work - nothing to do with journalism but a job all the same. I was made redundant from the Northcliffe empire (I was a sub/feature writer at the Bristol Post and Press) around 5/6 years ago in the first round of staff cuts from there. Good luck with your fight, I'm with you in spirit... Don't let the bastards grind you down!!

Elfyn Griffith

Fellow-broadcasters at KALW public radio in San Francisco contacted the NUJ as soon as they learned of the strike:

"We air a range of programming from the BBC World Service, including Newshour and World Have Your Say. We will publicize the strike and do our best to minimize the broadcast of non-union material on KALW. There is a period overnight when we are automated and run the World Service, so that's going to be tough. But elsewhere we'll eliminate BBC News headlines, and let listeners know that decision was made in recognition of the strike. We won't editorialize about the issues in the strike on the air, but we will certainly raise awareness. We have a link to the NUJ site on our website."

That's called solidarity.

Dear Sisters & Brothers,
On behalf of the Camden branch of UNISON, with some 3,400 members, I am writing to offer our support to the 15 July strike against compulsory redundancies at the BBC. I had hoped to visit a picket line earlier this morning at the World Service in Aldwych and may just make it early this afternoon.
While there are obviously important differences between the BBC and the rest of the public sector, in essence we are all faced with unprecedented attacks on jobs, pay and conditions for the vast majority of the workforce. We applaud NUJ members for taking a principled stand on behalf of colleagues threatened with redundancy, similar to that taken by members of our UNISON branch in Camden Council's Housing Repairs & Improvements division on 30 June. More than 40 workers walked out that day on behalf of 11 co-workers facing compulsory redundancy in an office where many posts are still vacant after a restructure and where two dozen or more agency staff remain.
Obviously, we hope that you can achieve a swift victory in your immediate dispute, but I strongly suspect that we will need to see far more widespread, co-ordinated action across the public sector as whole to defend jobs, terms and conditions and, of course, our pensions.
In solidarity,

George Binette, Camden UNISON Branch Secretary and Camden Trades Council Chair.

Hello Strikers! Just a quick note to wish you all the very best of luck. While I would much rather you folks didn't have to go out on strike and your protests were all listened to and resolved by reason and debate, I am glad, and proud, of what you are doing - standing up against employers hell bent on getting rid of staff and standing up for journalism.As a struggling freelance I can report it's really tough out here and it will be even tougher if there isn't resistance to the lay-offs and defence of the trade. I'm not in a position to do much about that apart from moan about it from the sidelines, so when folks like you who are in a position to do something and actually take up the sword I can only say thanks and well done.I hope you win. Good luck.Your cause is just.

Mick Holder, Press & PR Branch

To all NUJ members at the BBC – wishing you success in your action today to protect jobs and retain quality broadcasting in the public interest.
In solidarity,

Mary Maguire, Unison Head Of Press and Broadcasting

NUJ Press and PR branch sends solidarity and support to all our comrades and colleagues on strike across the BBC and Yorkshire Media. Press and PR branch has asked all members not to use the BBC or Yorkshire Media while fellow members are on strike. We all need a strong independent media and journalists shouldn't pay for the high salaries and bonuses of media owners or budget cuts. Without journalists media organisations would be nothing. We fully support you in your fight against job cuts and compulsory redundancies.

Sian Jones, PPR branch secretary
Monica Foot and Carmel McHenry, PPR Co-Chairs

New Scientist NUJ chapel sends its support to BBC staff taking strike action over compulsory redundancies. We wish you every success
In solidarity

Julia Brown. New Scientist RBI chapel

Illness keeps me from the picket line today, but my thoughts and solidarity are with all our BBC members on strike. The NUJ's long-held BBC policy of no compulsory redundancy must be maintained. In these days of self-interest and preservation it is heartening that the need for trade union collective action is still taken to protect those who, through no fault of their own, are in danger of losing their jobs. In an organisation like the BBC there has never been the need for compulsory redundancies.
Unity has always been our Strength. Keep up your principled struggle.

John Fray, former NUJ Deputy General Secretary and National Broadcasting Organiser

Solidarity with the BBC strikers.

Barry White, London NEC member

We wish to express our support for your strike opposing compulsory redundancies. LexisNexis chapel has always fought for this position and in the recent past, proved to our employer the benefits of a voluntary redundancy programme, while also working hard to preserve jobs.
Good luck!

Sylvia Courtnage (Joint MoC) and Dan Meredith (Joint FoC), LexisNexis NUJ.

Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance wishes success to the NUJ strikers at the BBC

Taking strike to day and shame on their blackleg colleagues for letting them down. The right to strike is paramount in a democracy but we all know the pressure the establishment brings upon people brave enough to stand up for their rights. The BBC's decision to cut back & force redundancies is shameful and bows to the Government's political pressure to control the media and stifle debate. The same is happening in local government. No one strikes by choice, but stand up for your rights and you have my support and that of my family.
Cheers and best wishes,

Dr Mike Casselden, Chartered Town Planner & Patient Safety Champion NE England

Tags: , bbc, strike, compulsory redundancies, support, ken loach, broadcasting, tony benn, john mcdonnell