BBC-wide journalists' strike over compulsory job cut risk

Journalists across the BBC are to stage two one-day strikes next month, claiming the corporation has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies.

National Union of Journalists members at the corporation voted 77 per cent in favour of strike action in a national ballot that closed at midday today. They now plan to walk out on Friday 3 April and Thursday 9 April.

According to the NUJ, the union has more than 3,500 members at the corporation.

In a motion passed this afternoon, union represenatives from across the BBC called on management to “immediately enter meaningful negotiations and to withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancy”.

According to the NUJ, up to 20 jobs could be cut at the World Service’s South Asian section. The broadcaster is planning to move some World Service programme-making on the Hindi, Nepali and Urdu radio services from London to Islamabad, Delhi and Kathmandu.

But the BBC has questioned the ballot – which was originally called in response to the threat of compulsory redundancies at BBC Scotland, not the World Service.

A spokesman told Press Gazette: “At the BBC World Service no one is facing imminent compulsory redundancy.

“We are still in the process of seeking volunteers and finding opportunities for redeployment. We are optimistic we will find a satisfactory outcome.”

The corporation also rejected the suggestion made by the BBC union representatives that staff at the World Service in South Asia had been coerced into “accepting redundancy packages against their will”.

“We only invited staff to come and talk to us on a voluntary basis,” the spokesman added. “There’s no such coercion occurring.”

NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin said in a statement: “Today’s result shows that members at the BBC are fully prepared to stand up for their colleagues under threat across the BBC.

“At a difficult time for journalism the fact that so many members at the BBC are willing to support their colleagues is inspiring.

“If the BBC wants to provoke a strike over such small numbers it would be shameful. We call on the BBC to get round the table with us and sort it out.”

More action looms

A separate strike ballot of Scottish members of the broadcasting union Bectu is due to close next week.

Up to 17 members of staff at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow face compulsory redundancy because not enough people volunteered to leave.

The cuts are part of the corporation-wide “creative futures” project – a five-year framework for cutting costs following a disappointing licence fee settlement in 2007.

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.

The corporation has said it is not immune to the financial crisis engulfing the rest of the media and is working hard to minimise compulsory redundancies.

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