By Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser
Industrial action against the BBC will be stepped up after a successful 24-hour strike on Monday 18 February crippled news programmes across the nations and regions of the corporation.
This latest dispute started in Scotland three weeks ago, with a work to rule as it became obvious management at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay HQ were failing to implement their own redeployment policy. It has now spread to strike action, with NUJ members setting up picket lines from London to Shetland and Belfast to Aberdeen.
Over 100 NUJ members were joined by supporters on the Glasgow picket on Monday, with many well-known presenters showing they back the union position by their absence from the screens and radio bulletins for 24-hours.
The action is over compulsory redundancies. It is a fight which could have been avoided if local management had pulled their finger out and delivered what they promised.
During talks in London last week, I became aware that the situation in Scotland is different and in stark contrast to what is happening elsewhere in the BBC, as management in other nations and regions appear to be making far more effort to handle the change and are re-deploying more staff than they are paying off.
At the meeting in White City between the senior NUJ officials and BBC Corporate management, the London based bosses were visibly surprised at some of the stories they heard from Scotland. Jobs have been advertised externally without the nine individuals at risk even being informed of the opportunities, never mind being slotted into the vacancies.
It appears up to 800 applications have since been received by the BBC for researcher jobs advertised last week, yet the NUJ members targeted found out by accident about the chance of being kept on. Other posts which were available have not been offered to these experienced journalists and the chapel believe they are being targeted for a variety of reasons.
We now also suspect the management want to force the NUJ to accept compulsory redundancies but instead the situation has deteriorated to corporation-wide strike action. Anger mounted further this week, when a note went out from senior BBC Scotland managers to staff in the factual department in Pacific Quay offering training for individuals on a “first come first served basis”.
The course in question is titled ‘Journalism for Non Journalists’ to be run on 12 March from 10am-1pm. The mind boggles at the level of expertise they must have at their disposal where they can train people to be journalists in three hours.
That level of mismanagement is staggering to say the least. The insensitivity to advertise this course three days before a strike to save journalists jobs is beyond belief and the credibility of management at PQ is now at an all-time low among staff. The joint unions have offered to participate in a joint working team with management to explore the redeployment opportunities but it has only met once in the last two months. The joint unions involved in the BBC – NUJ, BECTU and UNITE – are facing more job cuts in the next financial year and will now be balloting in a joint vote to spread the industrial action.
The leaders of the unions have invited the incumbent top cat at the BBC, Tony Hall, to meet to discuss the deteriorating situation. We have argued for an immediate moratorium on any compulsory redundancies and have a set an agenda for meaningful negotiations.
This is an alternative to listening to BBC management continually asking the NUJ “will we ever accept Compulsory Redundancies” to help them achieve their cuts. The answer is a clear ‘No’, and the threat is clear – a strike involving all three unions will stop the BBC in its tracks and a spring and summer of conflict beckons for the beleaguered organisation.
It has now become more than a fight for the nine jobs at risk, although they are the priority. The future of quality broadcasting and the running of BBC Scotland in particular are both part of an on-going battle and wide support is required if we are to win this essential struggle.
Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice
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