NUJ prepares for Maundy Thursday walk-out over job cuts, excessive workload and bullying at BBC
21 March 2013
BBC Easter programmes will be disrupted as the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has voted for strike action over compulsory redundancies, excessive workloads and bullying and harassment within the corporation.
The joint 12-hour strike with broadcasting union BECTU will start at midday on Thursday 28 March. BBC workers will leave their offices and studios led by their union leaders in action that will disrupt the Bank Holiday schedule. The action is a consequence of the BBC's so-called Delivering Quality First initiative, a cost-cutting programme which will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs across the corporation.
All NUJ members are observing a work to rule and this will be extended to BECTU members.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:
"Members are taking strike action next week in a clear message to the BBC that it needs to listen to its staff and properly address the problems created by their ill-conceived and badly implemented cuts programme. It is disappointing that once again the BBC has decided not to properly engage, refusing our call for a moratorium to give space for meaningful discussions on the worrying impact of the cuts.
"BBC executives know they've got a major problem on their hands – the recent investigation into bullying and harassment has lifted the lid on a problem that has been allowed to grow to shocking levels, under the noses of senior executives supposed to be responsible for upholding 'BBC values'.
"We hope the forthcoming Respect at Work report will be a positive step forward in tackling a problem that has become institutionalised – but it's hard to believe that there's a real commitment to change when we're seeing cases of people who have been targeted, bullied and unfairly picked off being rushed out of the door. Compulsory redundancies being pushed through at the same time as jobs are being advertised externally is not just bad management, it's a waste of licence fee money.
"The BBC is adamant that the cuts are having no impact on quality. NUJ members know this is bunkum – they are the ones dealing with the real impact of cuts that have been targeted directly at frontline programming, they can see that corners are being cut, that staff are being put under huge pressure to deliver with fewer resources, and inevitably quality journalism is compromised. Calling their package of 20 per cent cuts Delivering Quality First was always a nonsense and an insult – and it is becoming clearer every day that the cuts, which are being badly implemented from the top, are diminishing quality journalism at our public service broadcaster."
The NUJ provided a dossier of evidence to the BBC's review of its policies and processes relating to bullying and harassment, a process headed by Dinah Rose QC. The request for confidential evidence by the NUJ resulted in a huge response from BBC journalists past and present. It revealed a "shocking" picture of widespread and entrenched bullying and harassment, alongside a sustained failure by BBC management to deal with the perpetrators. It is clear that whilst the problem is an entrenched one, it has worsened in the wake of the cuts taking place.
Next week's action follows a one-day strike by NUJ members last month over compulsory redundancies – action which resulted in a range of flagship programmes, such as Radio 4's Today and Breakfast TV, being pulled off the air.
The NUJ vote was 61.2% for strike action and 79.9% for action short of a strike.
The BBC has refused the unions' call for a six-month moratorium to discuss the impact of the DQF cuts and the BBC's failure in parts of the organisation to put in place an agreed redeployment scheme. Tony Hall, the new director general is due to take up his post in April.
Sue Harris, NUJ national broadcasting organiser said that talks with the BBC had made some progress on a new IT system that will help the redeployment system. She said:
"It makes sense to have a moratorium on the cuts while we are sorting out these problems. There needs to be a proper assessment of the issues and appropriate action to ensure that the price of DQF is not people's health and well-being at work."
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.
More details in the NUJ statement on latest talks.