BBC staff in strike action threat over multiskilling deal

Staff have threatened strike action after rejecting a deal on pay and multi-skilling from the BBC’s nations and regions that would see more reporters shooting and editing their own stories.

Union MoCs and FoCs from the nations and regions called on Wednesday for further talks on multiskilling proposals put forward by their controller, Pat Loughrey.

Angry staff called for strike action if the BBC chiefs did not come up with an improved pay structure for staff working as videojournalists.

"The chapel reps told us what they thought of the offer and it’s unprintable," said Paul McLaughlin, national broadcasting organiser of the NUJ. "None of the things we have asked for have been offered, particularly a separate grade for multiskilling."

The NUJ has been in talks with the BBC since 2000 when the English regions drew up plans to extend the use of video cameras and laptop editing equipment.

The BBC is also keen to introduce multiskilling practices in the newsrooms of its national broadcasters and last year recruited the videojournalist Michael Rosenblum to train 50 staff from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as the English regions.

The NUJ then reached a deal with the BBC over pay for staff being trained by the former CBS producer’s media consultancy, Rosenblum Associates, in a pilot that will end later this month.

But the NUJ has continued to argue that a separate category should be created for staff who work mainly, rather than occasionally, as videojournalists.

While some news chiefs regard the use of the video camera as a way of enabling newsrooms to cover more stories, the union is concerned about the impact on editorial standards of multiskilling and the ad-hoc introduction of new working practices.

The NUJ wants such jobs to be given a grade-eight salary of up to £24,500, arguing that creating a separate category would allow staff who want to use the new technology to apply for jobs knowing what is expected. It would also offer protection to staff who don’t want to go down that road.

A spokesman for the BBC nations and regions confirmed that talks were going on with the NUJ over "new ways of working" but was unable to comment on any details of those talks.

By Julie Tomlin

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