Unions confirm ballot for BBC strike action

The BBC moved closer to a New Year strike today as unions agreed to ballot members for industrial action over job cuts.

Leaders of the National Union of Journalists and the broadcasting workers’ union Bectu decided to ballot their 10,000 members for industrial action after meeting today on the proposed 2,500 job cuts across the BBC.

Journalists and broadcasting workers at the corporation will vote over the next few weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action. The result of the ballot, which will run throughout December, will be known on January 9. Strike action could take place within seven days of this date.

The decision followed the revelation this week that not enough volunteers for redundancy have come forward in key departments. BBC management has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, according to the unions.

After a trawl for voluntary redundancies, in factual programmes and features, 303 staff have volunteered to go, well short of the 440 the corporation is seeking, according to the unions.

In BBC News 343 staff have volunteered for redundancy, above the BBC’s target figure of 321.The BBC could still reject some of the volunteers’ applications for redundancy.

The unions have warned that further compulsory redundancies are threatened in Scotland and at the World Service.

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of Bectu, said his members were angry that the BBC was refusing to rule out compulsory job losses.

“Our members are outraged that the BBC is making such swingeing cuts and I am confident they will support industrial action as we attempt to protect jobs and the quality of programmes,” he said.

The unanimous call was also prompted by the BBC’s continued intention to withdraw unpredictability allowances (UPA) for new staff from 1 January 2008 and implement changes to the pension scheme, the Unions said in a joint statement.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: ‘When a negotiated settlement is within reach it is madness for the BBC to force experienced staff out of the door. At a time when the corporation needs top-class management, it seems to be suffering from poor decision making.”

“Our members are already deeply concerned about the strain they will be put under as a result of the BBC’s cutbacks. Now management is piling on the pressure by leaving thousand of people uncertain about whether they will have a job in the new year, even though it appears that many of these cuts could be dealt with through voluntary redundancies.”

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