BBC-wide vote for industrial action could disrupt Easter-time programme schedules

Tim Lezard

NUJ picket_with carThousands of workers across the BBC are to vote on strike action over increased workloads, stress and compulsory job cuts.

It comes less than a fortnight after journalists staged what they said was a highly successful 24-hour stoppage (pictured) over newsroom redundancies.

The joint unions, BECTU, NUJ and Unite said the BBC had rejected an offer of wide-ranging talks to address staff concerns in exchange for a 6-month moratorium on job cuts .

The ballot begins on 6 March.

BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey: “We would prefer to have a sensible conversation with BBC management about the damage done in the first year of these cuts, but instead we’ve had to turn up the pressure to protect thousands of members from over-work, bullying, and stress.

“The BBC seems to believe that staff can continue supporting the full range of services despite a 20% reduction in resources, and massive job cuts.”

Union members at the BBC have reported an increase in disciplinary cases where over-stretched staff are accused of poor performance, and a BECTU survey of BBC staff in December 2012 revealed that bullying and harrassment had become major problems at the Corporation.

Broadcasting unions blame low staff morale on the decision by executives in 2010 to agree to a 6-year freeze in the TV licence fee – committing to maintain levels of output despite a 20% cut real funding.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:  “The NUJ’s recent strike demonstrated the level of concern and anger amongst journalists about the effect of cuts at the BBC.

“It was disappointing that the BBC failed to properly negotiate and avert the action, but we’re not prepared to sit back while our members suffer because of shortsighted policies by BBC executives.

“We won’t tolerate compulsory redundancies while other vacancies are advertised, and we won’t allow our members’ health to suffer because of unacceptable workloads and avoidable stress.”

NUJ members are at present working to rule.

Unions say a 6-year programme of budget cuts worth £430 per year imposed as a result of the 2010 licence fee freeze – described by the Prime Minister David Cameron as a “delicious” deal – will mean 2,000 redundancies.

Unions have warned that this not only risks overloading the smaller workforce, but will also damage the quality of the BBC’s broadcasting and online content.

The ballot is due to run until 20 March.

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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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