BBC Scotland to be hit by strike action


  By a Newsnet reporter
Journalists at BBC Scotland have voted in favour of taking industrial action after the corporation refused to drop plans for compulsory redundancies.
The announcement by the NUJ follows a unanimous vote in favour of a work to rule following a ballot in December last year.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The BBC should withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancies in Scotland and take steps to redeploy staff at risk.

“Journalists will stand in solidarity with colleagues who risk losing their jobs and members have a clear mandate to take action to stop compulsory redundancies.

“It is not right to start the year with the threat of job cuts, compulsory redundancies are avoidable and the NUJ urges management to get round the table to resolve the dispute by providing sufficient redeployment opportunities to the staff affected.”

It is understood that management at the BBC have been already been given seven days notice that strike action will be taken at offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament and the Borders.

The vote follows anger at plans to shed up to 120 jobs in Scotland over the next five years, the cuts include up to 35 journalists from the BBC Scotland news department.

The BBC raises £325million of its £3,500million revenue from Scottish licence fee payers, but spends only £176million in Scotland with around £150million going south to pay for network programming – the Scottish budget is to be reduced by £16million.

The threat of industrial action, reported by Newsnet Scotland in October, came after the NUJ raised formal objections with the BBC over the corporation’s redundancy plans for its Scottish based staff.  The union claimed that staff had been intimidated and targeted after not enough opted to accept the BBC’s voluntary redundancy package.

There have been claims that morale at BBC Scotland is at an all time low, with many staff looking for opportunities to leave the broadcaster.

However appearing in front of a Holyrood Committee earlier this week to discuss the effects of the job cuts, defiant BBC bosses challenged many of the claims levelled against the corporation’s Scottish branch.

Responding to claims by NUJ official Pete Murray, who had highlighted job cuts of sixty per cent at Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, BBC Scotland Head of News and Current Affairs, John Boothman said:

“The picture presented by the unions at the last meeting, for me, was not a true picture of what’s happening,

“I prefer to look through the other end of the telescope.”

He added: “We are very, very satisfied with the staffing we have got around Good Morning Scotland – it’s our flagship news programme.”

Mr Boothman admitted that there were plans to reduce staff on the Newsnight Scotland programme, but refused to provide details.

On the subject of the quality of referendum coverage, Mr Boothman said: “BBC Scotland will go anywhere, any time to any place in order to ensure that this referendum is covered properly.”

His comment came despite BBC Scotland’s decision not to send anyone to cover the recent Yes Glasgow launch, which saw over 600 people in attendance.

Mr Boothman’s boss, Ken MacQuarrie also challenged claims of plummeting morale, insisting that the atmosphere at the last meeting between the unions and BBC Scotland management had been “positive”.

A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said: “We’re continuing to work closely with our staff and the unions to seek re-deployment wherever possible and those talks are ongoing.”

The strike action over job cuts follows news of a planned rally in Glasgow on 23rd Fenruary that will call for an open and balanced referendum debate from broadcasters, with more input from women and equal representation for both sides in all debates and discussions.

Newsnet Scotland understands that the rally will also demand an end to job cuts at BBC Scotland and an improvement in the quality of news and current affairs programming currently being produced.