The BBC has agreed a timeframe with broadcasting unions for its controversial six-year plan that will involve the culling of up to 2,500 people across the corporation.
In a letter to Bectu chief executive Gerry Morrissey and Paul McLaughlin, broadcasting organiser of the National Union of Journalists, the BBC said talks on the future of the corporation’s News and of Vision departments, which includes its current affairs output, would begin on 5 November.
Up to 370 jobs in news and 550 in nations and regions are set to be axed as part of director-general Mark Thompson’s plan to create a ‘smaller BBC”.
The unions, which have joined forces with public service union Unite, had threatened strike action if the BBC had gone ahead with plans to go ahead with a voluntary redundancy trawl and follow this with compulsory redundancies before consulting with the unions. A two-week redundncy trawl will now take place in News and BBC Vision that will end on 19 November and further talks held with the unions before further redundancies are agreed.
The corporation has also guaranteed a 10 per cent redeployment of displaced staff and agreed to talk to the joint unions to discuss how it will be done. As well as a freeze on external recruitment in favour of retraining and redeployment, the BBC has also agreed to supply a full breakdown of the BBC’s finances and carry out a cross-BBC health and safety risk assessment with particular reference to stress.
In statement the BBC said it was ‘pleased to have concluded talks. It said: ‘Our staff have told us that they want us to move speedily to minimise any period of uncertainty about jobs, which we all appreciate is very stressful.
‘Last night’s agreement is the first step in bringing clarity to individuals. We wish to continue to work closely with the trade unions to achieve the best possible result for our staff.”
NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said it welcomed the BBC’s decision but said the corporation “still fail to grasp the significant impact the proposed cuts will have on quality and core BBC public service commitments”.
He added: “We have made it clear attempts to impose cuts which lead to compulsory redundancies, increased workloads or which undermine the ability of BBC staff to deliver quality programmes will result in a ballot for strike action.
Bectu chief executive Gerry Morrissey said: ‘We took a significant step forward but promised the unions would oppose any compulsory cuts or changes to unsociable hours payments or pensions. We believe that if the BBC is prepared to work with us then we can assist them with the financial problems that currently exist as a result of a poor licence fee settlement. But if the BBC is intend on making people compulsory redundant then I am convinced there will be a successful ballot for strike action.’