Industrial action to hit BBC Scotland on Friday as NUJ hits back over job cuts claims

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
BBC Scotland news and sport will be hit by industrial action from Friday as members protest about planned compulsory redundancies at the broadcaster.
 
The decision to go ahead follows confirmation from BBC Scotland management that an initial nine people earmarked for compulsory redundancy have not been redeployed to other permanent roles – all nine will be made redundant by the end of March.

The nine are part of an overall reduction in staff at BBC Scotland that will eventually see 120 jobs disappear by 2017 – the job cuts include 35 journalists. 

The union balloted across the BBC last December and saw an 84.1% vote for industrial action to stop compulsory redundancies in Asian Network in Leicester and across Scotland.  Five members of staff at Leicester were also facing redundancy, however all five have now been slotted into other permanent jobs.

Newsnet Scotland understands that the industrial action at BBC Scotland will involve a work to rule. 

A spokesman for the NUJ told Newsnet Scotland: “We have initially gone for a work to rule as staffing levels are already too low and if our people stick to their contracts and take their proper breaks then they will struggle to get programmes of any quality on air.”

The spokesman also revealed that the union will shortly be making public the extent of job losses at BBC Scotland.  The decision is in response to comments from BBC Scotland Head of News and Current Affairs, John Boothman, who last week dismissed job cut figures presented in evidence to Holyrood’s Culture Committee by NUJ official Pete Murray.

The NUJ spokesman added: “In respect to the Education and Culture committee, we weren’t too surprised to hear John Boothman try and cast doubt on our figures as the BBC management response had previously attacked the unions’ submission last time we gave evidence.

“We will respond by making the figures public and show that at least we know how many staff now work in news and current affairs compared to 2009. 

The spokesman insisted he looked forward to meeting BBC Scotland management to hear how they plan to restructure news and current affairs with fewer posts.

He added: “In particular we want to find out how the independence referendum will be covered to an acceptable level, given the loss of jobs including specialists from politics, education and business.

“We will continue to campaign for a news service across Scotland which does justice to the referendum and a future Scotland.”

Appearing in front of Holyrood’s Culture Committee, BBC Scotland boss John Boothman said he was “disappointed” in the evidence provided on behalf of the NUJ by Mr Murray.

Challenging figures presented by Mr Murray, Mr Boothman added: “There is no programme, no programme in news and current affairs that has a staff cut of sixty per cent.” … “or anything like it”.

Writing in allmediascotland, NUJ’s Orgnaniser in Scotland, Paul Holleran responded to Mr Boothmans’s remarks:

“There was a robust defence of the cuts, but it didn’t go down too well and a number of members had expressed anger at attempts to minimise the concerns of the NUJ and our sister trade union, BECTU.

“It was unfortunate too that head of news, John Boothman, cast doubt on staffing figures. They had been provided by members of a workforce who have seen job cuts decimate the newsroom, and we will now have to provide a detailed list to the politicians to show we were not wrong and that John should have recognised the figures put to him by convener, Stewart Maxwell.

“For me, it was also a bit galling when director, Ken MacQuarrie, told the committee that I had congratulated management efforts on redeployment (which I had) but he never finished my statement warning of the strength of feeling among the chapel and worrying stress levels in news and current affairs.”

BBC Scotland’s John Boothman