BBC News 24 journalists take action to fight job cuts

By Caitlin Pike and Hamish MacKay

NUJ members at BBC News 24 have begun taking action in an effort to halt job cuts.

Union officials have told managers they have withdrawn “goodwill” as
the dispute over job cuts at the Corporation escalates. Staff will
refuse to work longer hours, cover for staff shortages and will not
accept the ending of shortterm contracts while the dispute over
director general Mark Thompson’s plans continues.

News 24 is to lose seven journalists in the cuts, as well as network staff across the UK.

News 24 insider told Press Gazette NUJ members supported action because
“they want management to understand how angry they are”.

Staff at
News 24 are refusing to work in more senior roles without additional
pay, are taking full breaks, including all screen breaks, and are
taking protected days off.

NUJ members at News 24 say the channel
is already struggling to fill rotas and functions at its current level
only because of the goodwill of staff. Staff say planned action could
have an effect on capability to cover major events.

In this
week’s Ariel, the BBC’s internal magazine, a spokesperson for the BBC
said of News 24: “We are confident we can maintain our usual
high-quality service.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said:
“The BBC relies on the goodwill of thousands of members of staff on a
daily basis. Given their contemptuous attitude to meaningful
negotiations, it is not surprising staff are refusing to cooperate with
their plans and have run out of goodwill towards BBC managers.”

The NUJ expects such action to spread to other parts of the BBC and its BBC ballot begins today.

Following sustained lobbying by trade unions, BBC Scotland controller
Ken MacQuarrie will appear before the Scottish Parliament’s enterprise
and culture committee next Tuesday to explain how the spending cuts
will affect programming north of the border.

The MSPs are likely
to give him a rough ride because politicians from all parties have
criticised the extent of the BBC’s job cuts in Scotland. The NUJ, Bectu
and Amicus have also been invited by MSPs to give evidence.

It is likely that a union rally or similar event will be held at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Scotland job cuts of between 240 and 250 are expected to produce
savings of £17m by 2008. Of that, £10m will be reinvested in regional
programmes that year, about 60 per cent of it used for new local
programming services.

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