Northern Ireland committee backs calls to protect UTV jobs
Séamus Dooley with Northern Ireland Assembly's Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee - © Private
20 November 2008
A Northern Ireland Assembly committee has strongly backed NUJ calls for the preservation of jobs and the protection of editorial standards at UTV.
A special meeting of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee heard Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, accuse Ofcom of abdicating it's responsibilities by allowing UTV management to push through redundancies during a consultation process on public service broadcasting obligations.
Mary Curry, the newly elected Joint mother of the NUJ chapel, outlined the devastating consequences that would flow from the proposed reduction of up to 35 jobs. She revealed that the final programme in the landmark current affairs programme, "Insight", will be broadcast next Monday night.
Pat Ramsey, SDLP MLA, expressed astonishment that management should implement programme changes while negotiations with BECTU and the NUJ are still in progress. Luke Crawley, BECTU official, told the committee that both his union and the NUJ had been exasperated by the failure of Ofcom as a regulatory authority to take action against companies who have pre-empted the consultation process.
Referring to an earlier presentation by Denis Wolinski, Director of Ofcom Northern Ireland, Séamus Dooley said the Ofcom position could be regarded as "look no hands", yet broadcasters face redundancy because of the manner in which the consultation process has been handled.
Patrick Styles, BECTU national official, echoed the position of both unions when he criticised the failure of management to enter into meaningful negotiations at an earlier stage in the process.
MLAs agreed to meet next week to review the presentations which also included a presentation from Michael Wilson, UTV managing director. Michael Wilson refused a request to postpone implementation of redundancies pending completion of the Ofcom consultation.
The focus of attention will now turn to the Stormont Assembly on Monday when an unprecedented debate on the Ofcom process and UTV's redundancy proposals will dominate proceedings.