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BBC unions ballot for strike action over job cuts, workload and bullying

26 February 2013

BBC workers are to be balloted for strike action over compulsory redundancies, workload, stress and bullying and harassment – all a result of the corporation's cost-cutting programme, Delivering Quality First (DQF).

The NUJ is re-balloting for action, this time with Bectu and Unite, following its successful strike last week which pulled a range of flagship programmes off the air. The ballot closes at midday 20 March and could lead to disruption of the Easter TV and radio schedule.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The NUJ's recent strike demonstrated the level of concern and anger amongst journalists about the effect of cuts at the BBC. It was disappointing that the BBC failed to properly negotiate and avert the action, but we're not prepared to sit back while our members suffer because of shortsighted policies by BBC executives.

"We won't tolerate compulsory redundancies while other vacancies are advertised, and we won't allow our members' health to suffer because of unacceptable workloads and avoidable stress.  Our members care because they can see that the quality of journalism will suffer as staff numbers are squeezed.
"The inquiry by Dinah Rose and the evidence submitted by the NUJ,  has lifted the lid on the huge extent of bullying and harassment within the BBC – this longstanding and entrenched problem has become worse as a result of the cuts under the so-called Delivering Quality First programme. The solution is simple – we want a six month moratorium on the cuts to allow proper discussions and a resolution to be found without a prolonged period of industrial unrest."

NUJ members are at present working to rule.

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU's general secretary, said:

"We would prefer to have a sensible conversation with BBC management about the damage done in the first year of these cuts, but instead we've had to turn up the pressure to protect thousands of members from over-work, bullying, and stress. The BBC seems to believe that staff can continue supporting the full range of services despite a 20 per cent reduction in resources, and massive job cuts."

He said that a BECTU survey of BBC staff in December 2012 revealed that bullying and harassment had become a major problem at the corporation.

Under DQF the BBC will cut its budget by 20 per cent, resulting in 2,000 job losses, many from core programming.  The BBC has already lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2004. This is because former director general Mark Thompson agreed to freeze the BBC licence until 2017 while taking on an extra £340 million in spending commitments, including the World Service and roll-out of fast broadband.

Investigative journalism will suffer – and coverage of the political conferences will be cut. Already 140 jobs in news have gone. Half the jobs at the Asian Network have been cut. Local radio cuts will damage the BBC's reach to local communities. It means an end to original drama on BBC4 and a decline in radio drama. BBC Wales loses over 100 jobs under DQF with big cuts in Bangor and Cardiff.  More than 100 jobs will go in Scotland.

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting national organiser said:

"The BBC contributes millions to the UK economy. It has a  worldwide reputation for its excellent programme making and quality journalism.The BBC staff who make and produce these programmes are fed up of having to increase productivity year on year, while seeing colleagues being made compulsorily redundant, because the then director general failed to get a decent license fee settlement with the UK government.
"This frustration and anger of modestly-paid BBC staff has been heightened by the unnecessarily huge pay-outs given to other departing overpaid senior BBC managers at the end of last year."

Tags: BBC, broadcasting, ballot, Bectu, strike