BBC breakthrough staves off industrial action threat

By Caitlin Pike

Talks between the BBC and unions over plans to cut up to 4,000 jobs
will begin in each of the corporation’s 25 divisions as early as July,
when the corporation will start trawling for staff willing to accept
voluntary redundancy.

The talks have put on hold the threat of industrial action by the unions – which include the NUJ.

A breakthrough came after meeting on 8 June between the BBC and the unions.

The
BBC agreed to a framework for discussions on job cuts at a divisional
level and the unions accepted that the corporation could not deliver a
guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.

NUJ general secretary
Jeremy Dear told Press Gazette if the meeting with NUJ staff
representatives at the BBC does not bring up any objections to the
latest offer, and BECTU’s ballot at the end of the month sees its
members agreeing to the proposals, then discussions in each division of
the corporation could begin in July.

“We always believed there
was more scope for movement at divisional level and we hope to be able
to make some changes to the number of staff losing their jobs. We still
have the ability to call further industrial action if issues such as
work remain neglected,” said Dear.

A letter sent to unions from
BBC director general Mark Thompson after the 8 June meeting stated that
failure to agree on issues at divisional level will mean they can be
referred to national level. A further meeting will be held with the
unions before the end of the year to review developments.

The
proposal is offered on the grounds that the unions accept the offer the
BBC made to the unions at industrial arbitration body ACAS on 26 May to
freeze compulsory redundancies until 2006 and to withhold the sale of
BBC Resources until 2007.

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