PCS supporters bombard BBC with complaints after a presenter branded members due to go on strike later this week as ‘a disgrace’ and called for them to be sacked


PCS supporters have bombarded the BBC with complaints after a programme presenter branded members due to go on strike later this week as ‘a disgrace’ and called for them to be sacked.

The comments came as Gary Richardson was interviewing the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, during the Sportsweek programme on 5Live.

In a series of questions about preparations for the Olympic Games and plans for PCS Home Office staff to strike on Thursday over compulsory redundancies among UK Border Agency staff, Richardson said: “They’re a disgrace, aren’t they?”

A later question was simply: “Sack ’em?”

When Jeremy Hunt replied that he did not want to escalate the dispute, the presenter continued by saying: “The real militant ones, you’d like to see them sacked, wouldn’t you?” and later, “Get rid of the other 400. Well done.”

A source close to the PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says he’s furious about the interview and wants the BBC to take swift action and issue a full and unreserved apology.

Union officials say the interview sounded ‘more like something from Fox News than the BBC’.

In the course of the interview, Jeremy Hunt revealed that there had been discussion among Cabinet ministers about whether the government should take what he described as ‘the Ronald Regan approach’ to the strike, but that they had ruled this out for the moment.

In 1981, US President Ronald Regan sacked 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in a confrontation which is seen as having redefined industrial relations in the United States.

Here, a number of senior Conservative ministers are known to support calls for the government to add to anti-union laws by demanding a minimum threshold for participation in industrial action ballots before they are legal.

Jeremy Hunt said in the 5Live interview: “I know that among those 600 [UKBA staff] there are lots of people who really want to do the right thing and turn up for work,” and that those who had voted to strike constituted ‘a big, big minority’.

A PCS spokesman said: “This [interview] was a disgrace and actually very worrying, because it appears to show that the government’s plan to whip up hysteria to deflect attention away from the issues at the heart of the dispute – not least that they’re cutting 8,500 Home Office jobs, a third of the workforce – is clearly working if supposedly impartial BBC journalists feel comfortable airing such wild views.”

The BBC’s own editorial guidelines – which are issued to all programme staff – say: “our audiences should be confident that our decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures, or any personal interests.’

A senior PCS official has lodged a formal complaint to the BBC, saying Gary Richardson’s line of questioning ‘went beyond impartial by some distance’ .

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