BECTU and NUJ members to take action over compulsory redundancies, workloads, bullying and harassment

Tim Lezard

Fight for our BBCBBC journalists and technicians are to strike during Easter over compulsory redundancies, excessive workloads and bullying and harassment.

The joint BECTU / NUJ strike is a consequence of the corporation’s Delivering Quality First (DQF), a cost-cutting programme which will result in the loss of 2,000 job across the corporation.

BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey said:  “BBC staff have today rejected management’s attempts to create a modern-day BBC sweatshop. Current demands on staff are unacceptable and with more job cuts planned it is essential that the BBC takes stock of the impact of DQF on its workforce.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “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 these cuts, which are being badly implemented from the top, are diminishing quality journalism at our public service broadcaster.”

The NUJ has provided evidence to the BBC’s review on its policies and processes relating to sexual harassment headed by Dinah Rose QC after allegations that there was a culture of endemic sexism and harassment at the broadcaster. The request for confidential evidence by the NUJ resulted in a huge response from employees and former employees.  It revealed a “shocking” picture of widespread bullying and harassment and the management’s failure to deal with the perpetrators.

The strike follows a one-day stoppage by NUJ members last month over compulsory redundancies which resulted in a range of flagship programmes, such as Radio 4’s Today and Breakfast TV, being pulled off the air. NUJ members in Scotland will be on strike on Friday and Monday over outstanding compulsory redundancies. There will be a demonstration in solidarity at New Broadcasting House, London, Friday afternoon.

All NUJ members are observing a work to rule.

The unions have called for a six-month moratorium to discuss the issues caused by the cuts and the BBC’s failure in parts of the organisation to put in place an agreed deployment scheme. Tony Hall, the new director general is due to take up his post in April.

NUJ broadcasting organiser Sue Harris said talks with the BBC had made some progress on a new IT system that could help the deployment 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.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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