Strikers need support in fight to keep quality

Croissants. Daleks. Jazz bands. The picket lines for the first of
the BBC strikes were always going to be peculiarly idiosyncratic
affairs.

Yet if director-general Mark Thompson had any doubts as
to the underlying passion and commitment of his journalists in
protesting about the dramatic cuts he has proposed, they must surely
have evaporated by around breakfast time on Monday when the scale of
support by news and current affairs staff became clear.

With so
few news programmes, either nationally or regionally, emerging
unscathed after 11,500 stayed away from work, the strikers’ first
objective – to prove that there’s no way of maintaining a quality
service without sufficient staff to run it – was achieved successfully.

Less
so the next objective, to soften Thompson’s stance on negotiating with
union officials over the scale and nature of the layoffs. His
intransigent comment that it was all “a price worth paying” was hardly
calculated to induce hopes of settlement.

And so the next action, 48 hours beginning next Wednesday, looks certain to go ahead.

This
is not just a blinkered bid to stop the cuts altogether – even the most
radical striker would accept that some jobs will have to go. It’s a
question of where and how those cuts are made. Much of the anger
centres on the layers of management that appear to be escaping the axe
while frontline reporting is hit so hard. They are not striking for
money. They are striking to show their commitment to quality journalism
that is still the envy of the world. For that they deserve our support.

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