BBC staff in strike ballot over compulsory job cut threat

Journalists across the BBC are to begin voting on industrial action today over the threat of compulsory redundancies at BBC Scotland.

The three-week ballot of National Union of Journalists members coincides with a separate vote by Scottish members of the broadcasting union, Bectu, which begins on Friday.

BBC Scotland has set out plans to cut 230 posts in the next five years – but has also said it will create up to 130 new jobs through “investment in local services”.

It has closed 96 posts this year – mostly though voluntary redundancy, non-replacement of staff and redeployment – and aims to cut another 76 jobs next year.

But, according to the NUJ, up to 17 members of staff at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow face compulsory redundancy after not enough people volunteered to leave.

NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin said the proposed cuts demonstrated a “lack of joined-up thinking in management” at a time when the BBC is pledging its commitment to produce more programming outside London.

In a letter to BBC NUJ members, McLaughlin said management seemed “hell-bent” on pressing ahead with compulsory cuts.

“Over the last several months, the union has had to intensify its campaign to continue to avoid compulsory redundancies of members at the BBC,” he said.

“At a time when an organisation with the scale of the BBC has guaranteed additional funding, there is no excuse for the compulsory redundancies among programme-makers.”

McLaughlin added: “We know that when we have called on the membership to support members under threat, you have always risen to the challenge. It is important you do so again.”

Bectu Scottish organiser Paul McManus added: “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to protect our members jobs through constructive dialogue but we must also send a very clear message to the BBC that as a last resort, if necessary, all our members in Glasgow will take action to oppose compulsory redundancies.”

A BBC Scotland spokesman told Press Gazette: “The BBC is continuing to work very hard to minimise compulsory redundancies in BBC Scotland and has been able to reduce the potential number to 17.

“We are trying to achieve this against a backdrop of the most severe economic climate in the UK, with many thousands of redundancies being announced every week in major companies.

“We have told staff that the BBC’s financial position was not immune from what is happening in the economy.

“We’re very aware at the moment that staff are rightly more concerned about jobs rather than pay and we continue to work very hard to avoid unnecessary compulsory redundancies.”

The corporation-wide ballot by the NUJ runs until 17 March. The Bectu ballot opens this Friday and will close on 26 March.

NUJ members at the BBC World Service’s South Asia division are planning to hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday in protest against “offshoring” plans.

The BBC plans to move some World Service programme-making from London to Islamabad, Delhi and Kathmandu. The decision means that, according to the BBC, 10 London-based staff now face redeployment or redundancy.

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