Unions to discuss reaction to BBC job cuts

Broadcasting union Bectu and the NUJ will meet later today to decide their reaction to the 2,500 confirmed job cuts at the BBC.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, met senior union leaders in London this morning to explain his plans to plug a £2bn funding shortfall.

They include heavy job losses in news, TV production and factual programming. BBC staff are being informed of the cuts in a series of briefings across the country this morning.

With the creation of some new jobs, the net job loss is in the region of 1,800.

The cost-cutting proposals, which were rubber-stamped by the BBC Trust, include the sale of BBC Television Centre in West London.

The BBC is also cutting 10 per cent from the number of programmes it commissions, which will lead to more repeats.

The general secretary of Bectu, Gerry Morrissey, said unions were willing to negotiate with the BBC to help make savings. But Morrissey warned that strike action was “100 per cent guaranteed” if the BBC went ahead with predicted voluntary redundancies.

He told BBC News 24: “We’re saying we want to enter a meaningful dialogue with the BBC.

“That meaningful dialogue cannot take place against the background of the BBC writing out to people, saying ‘come and collect your redundancy cheques’.

“If they go ahead with that, then strike action, I believe, is 100 per cent guaranteed.

“If they pull back from that position, sit down around the table, agree a national framework with the unions, then I believe that this matter can be negotiated properly.

“That’s in the best interests of the staff, the best interest interests of the licence payer, and at the end of the day the best interests of BBC management as well.”

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, said after meeting Thompson: “Nothing said today reassures us that the BBC is committed to meaningful negotiations over the changes and we fail to understand how they can claim to be defending public service broadcasting while making the most savage cuts in core news and current affairs areas.

“Unless the BBC reconsiders its position, strike action looks inevitable.”

About 400 jobs will be axed in the BBC News operations, 600 in the division which makes factual programmes and about 500 across the regions.

BBC sport will lose about 20 jobs and there will be job losses in the Corporation’s online operations.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, the BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said the Trust would be watching the proposed cuts “very carefully”.

“In the challenge of preparing the BBC for 2012 and beyond there are some tough choices to make,” he said. “We’ll be watching very carefully that there’s no damage to quality. Why would the director general bring us proposals which were likely to threaten the future?”

Lyons said the Trust had “done its job – its job is to speak for the licence fee payer and test the proposals”.

He said protecting “the quality and authority of the BBC” was “top of our agenda” and the Trust was eager for the BBC to make savings “out of buildings rather than people” by reassessing its property portfolio.

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