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Jobs at risk as UTV talks collapse

11 December 2008

Workers at UTV Television have rejected an attempt by management to force staff to apply for their own jobs as part of a ruthless cost cutting programme at the organisation.

Negotiations with the NUJ and BECTU ended this morning when Managing Director Michael Wilson staged a walk-out after the unions refused to accept the move to declare all posts redundant.

The threat of wholescale redundancies now looms over the workforce in the run-up to Christmas. Management rejected the joint NUJ/BECTU proposal for the appointment of an agreed conciliator to break the deadlock in talks on Wednesday.

The two unions are now seeking the intervention of the Labour Relations Agency, but the company has withdrawn from all negotiations and is refusing to provide information on the restructuring of the television division.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, and Pat Styles, BECTU national industrial officer, said in a joint statement that management had been engaged in a fake consultation process and had treated their staff with total contempt.

The statement said:

"BECTU and the NUJ have attempted to engage in meaningful negotiations but have been thwarted by management's insistence on pushing through compulsory redundancies. A voluntary redundancy programme has been put forward but the company has refused to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancy in order to pressurise staff into leaving.
"The final insult was the proposal to declare all remaining posts as 'new roles', contriving redundancies to undermine pay and conditions at the station. Management sought to introduce an unacceptable assessment process based on a discriminatory selection process.
"The process ignored the basis principles of natural justice and management refused to engage in meaningful dialogue on issues relating to equality, fairness at work and health and safety."

Pat Styles added:

"Management refused to outline the impact of the redundancies on the workload of those who remain. The legal requirement to justify redundancies in the consultation process has been ignored and no alternatives to redundancies have been explored."

Séamus Dooley pointed out that the Northern Ireland Assembly had specifically requested meaningful negotiations with the trade unions while the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee had requested a postponement of the redundancy plan pending publication of the Ofcom report on public service obligations.

Séamus Dooley said:

"Contempt has been shown to workers, viewers and public representatives in equal measure. All we seek is meaningful consultation and negotiations. We call on management to engage with the trade unions representing staff under the auspices of the Labour Relations Agency. If this does not happen workers will have to consider all other options to protect their interests and to prevent unjust, discriminatory measures against selected workers."

Tags: , broadcasting, utv, cuts, bectu, negotiations, labour relations agency, redundancies