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Olympic Torch coverage in Wales to be hit by BECTU/NUJ strike

18 May 2012

Coverage of the Olympic Torch arriving in Wales on Friday 25 May will be hit by BECTU & NUJ members taking strike action. The industrial action is in protest at the decision by the BBC to dismiss Heidi Williams, the chair of the BECTU branch at BBC Cardiff.

Members were outraged at the decision to dismiss their long serving branch chair and asked to be balloted for strike action. There was a strong vote in support of Heidi Williams with members voting by nearly three to one in favour of strike action.

NUJ members working for the BBC in Wales who were balloted separately have also returned a big majority for strike action. In an attempt to resolve the dispute, BECTU and NUJ accepted an invitation to ACAS, but, after 12 hours of talks, no agreement was reached and this means that the strike is now inevitable.

BECTU has always been seeking the re-instatement of Heidi Williams. In an attempt to achieve that goal and settle the dispute and allow the coverage of the Olympic Torch relay to go ahead, BECTU tabled a proposal at ACAS to go to binding pendulum arbitration to decide whether her dismissal was fair or not.

BECTU was prepared to accept that, if the neutral arbitrator decided that the dismissal was fair, Heidi Williams would leave the BBC. If the conclusion was that the dismissal was unfair, then Heidi would be reinstated at the BBC. If the BBC agreed to go in to the process, then the strike set for 25 May would be cancelled. This proposal was rejected by the BBC, but the joint unions have said that it remains on the table.

Luke Crawley, BECTU Assistant General Secretary, said:

"Regrettably this means that live coverage of the Olympic Torch as it start its journey through Wales to Cardiff will be severely affected. We remain committed to supporting our union reps in BBC Wales and the offer of binding arbitration remains on the table.
"The surprising failure of BBC management to pick up the offer leaves us with no alternative but industrial action."

Sue Harris, NUJ National Broadcasting Organiser, said:

"NUJ members are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with their BECTU colleagues. Our members have worked hard preparing for the Olympic Torch coverage but they are firm in their support of a union officer facing dismissal in this way."

Tags: , broadcasting, bbc, bectu, strike, olympics