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Letter: Is the NUJ stopping bad journalists from leaving the BBC and keeping good ones out?

An anonymous BBC journalist has sent in a letter to Press Gazette criticising the NUJ position opposing compulsory redundancies at the corporation saying that it keeps unsuitable journalists in jobs and denies others from outside the BBC a chance of employment with the broadcaster.

I should emphasise that this was sent in anonymously, but it has the ring of authenticity about it to me and the journalistic case in favour of compulsory redundancies is rarely made. Joint unions at the BBC are currently planning to ballot members over more strike action to stop compulsory redundancies.

I would like to point out that not all NUJ members at the BBC agree with the strike and many think it is absurd.

The NUJ’s justification is the planned redundancies of just nine members of BBC Scotland staff who have not been redeployed [Note, the current total number of planned editorial redundancies across the corporation is 30]. From my experience the BBC does everything it can to avoid compulsory redundancies and redeploy staff. As a BBC employee at risk of redundancy myself, I receive several emails every day inviting me to apply for internal jobs. If I don’t have the necessary skills to get these jobs then I don’t think I should carry on working for the BBC at the expense of licence fee payers.

However, at the BBC there seems to be a widespread attitude of “once you’re in, you’re in”. I have come across a lot of lazy and incompetent members of staff who have worked here for decades. There are many good journalists working for the BBC but there are also many bad ones.

I used to work in newspapers where I experienced several waves of massive redundancies. I saw a lot of genuinely talented and experienced journalists being forced out of the industry because the number of jobs available has dwindled. These journalists have a lot of skills that they would be able to offer the BBC, whether in radio, TV or online, but the BBC’s Redeployment Policy is preventing most jobs from being advertised externally.

I always thought that the role of the NUJ was to support journalists and journalism. However, it increasingly seems that the NUJ is more concerned with supporting members who work for the BBC, rather than journalists from across the media. How can the NUJ seek to doggedly enforce a policy which is keeping unsuitable journalists in employment at the BBC while good journalists from outside the BBC are being forced into PR? Is it a union for journalists or is it a union for BBC journalists?

I think this strike damages the reputations of both BBC employees and the NUJ. The consensus among my former newspaper colleagues is that BBC employees and NUJ members must be petty to strike over such a small number of potential redundancies. I have always encouraged my colleagues to join the union but this matter has made them even more reluctant to do so. I have to confess that I am now considering leaving the union myself.

I would, however, question the legitimacy of the strike [held on 18 February]. Members were balloted back in November but this was before the BBC Scotland issue arose. The majority of colleagues I have spoken to have not been balloted at all. I know the NUJ has had problems keeping track of its members’ contact details in the past few years – did ballots only go to fathers and mothers of chapel and their mates? I wonder how many NUJ members genuinely support this strike, but I suspect they are in the minority.

'Lois Lane' - BBC Broadcast Journalist and NUJ member

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