Following a ballot of members, media and entertainment union Bectu has announced that some staff working in the BBC World Service’s network operations will strike for 30 hours this weekend.
Journalists are not taking industrial action.
Bectu warned that “output is set be hit” by the strike but the BBC has this afternoon issued a statement to say it is “not expecting any disruption to World Service programming”.
The union’s dispute with the BBC centres on the corporation’s refusal to allow around 15 staff to join a final salary pension scheme following their transfer of employment from a private company, Babcock Communications Ltd, to the BBC late last year.
Bectu feels demands should be met because it claims some of the staff involved were allowed to keep a final salary scheme when they transferred to Babcock Communications following the privatisation of World Service Transmission Operations in 1997.
Bectu supervisory official Helen Ryan said in a statement:
This is a classic case of staff pension provision being disrupted by contracting out. When these staff were transferred out of the BBC in 1997, the BBC backed their demands for continuing membership of a final salary scheme.
Now, 15 years on, the BBC wants to wash its hands of its responsibilities to deal with the disruption to pension provision which these staff face.
The BBC has said in a statement:
We are disappointed that Bectu members have opted to take strike action … we have only allowed access to whatever pension scheme was open to new entrants at the time.
It would set an unsustainable precedent to allow people transferring into the BBC to enter pension schemes that are now closed to new members.
The industrial action will take place between 3pm on Sunday (15 April) and 9pm the following day. The staff involved route programmes to transmitters around the world.
This week’s #jpod looks at the BBC strikes which have been held by members of the National Union of Journalists in recent weeks. Staff performed their second 24-hour walk-out in protest at compulsory redundancies at the broadcaster, this week.
According to the union, more than 100 people are at risk of losing their jobs at the BBC World Service and jobs are also said to be at risk in divisions including BBC Monitoring, BBC Scotland and potentially BBC Wales, BBC 4, BBC Sport and TV Current Affairs.
In this podcast we visit the picket lines to speak to journalists striking at a regional BBC outlet and hear their concerns, as well as Jonathan Lovett, father of the chapel for the NUJ at Tindle Newspapers in Enfield, to discuss the power of industrial action and how him and his colleagues won concessions from management.
BBC journalists in Brighton, hometown of Journalism.co.uk, are taking part in today’s nationwide strikes at the corporation over compulsory redundancies. Staff at BBC Radio Sussex formed a picket outside the station’s offices on Queen’s Road this morning (1 August) from 4am, leaving management to find non-union staff to present the station’s programmes.
The mid-morning show, which airs from 9am-12pm, was produced at the Sussex offices by stand-ins and broadcast simultaneously by BBC Kent Radio.
There are no compulsory redundancies proposed at BBC Sussex, but Paul Siegert, the NUJ rep for the region, told Journalism.co.uk this morning he feared that the implementation of BBC’s Delivering Quality First Strategy could lead to cuts at the station.
“We know that there is a thing that BBC management are looking at at the moment called DQF, which we call Destroying Quality Forever, which is going to mean that there will be 20 per cent cuts across the BBC, and so we are expecting that there will be job cuts in places like this if we don’t take action now.”
Danielle Glavin, Siegert’s deputy at the Sussex chapel and West Sussex reporter for the station, said: “We are just trying to protect the BBC, otherwise it will be desolated”.
John Lees, the station’s sports correspondent, was outside the BBC Sussex building at 4am this morning to begin the picket, about the time he would arrive for work. His part of the show was presented by another member of staff this morning. He said that no union members had crossed the picket line in Sussex, and that the staff were “standing firm” in today’s strike and in the indefinite work to rule beginning tomorrow.
“Either you’re an NUJ member or you’re not, and if you are you’ve got to support to strike. And we do.”
Also among the picketers was Kathy Caton, a World Service employee on a year’s attachment in Sussex. Caton is among those to have already been made compulsorily redundant, and would have been forced out of the BBC last month if she had still been working out of the World Service offices at Bush House, London. Because of her attachment to BBC Sussex, she has a stay of execution until next June.
She told Journalism.co.uk that there is “simply no fat to cut away” at the local station.
“Everything is done on such a tight ship, and to achieve the cuts that the BBC has planned means losing jobs, losing services and losing programmes.
“But there’s no slack here, people aren’t sitting around eating foie gras and swilling it down with champagne. It’s a tight ship.”
Caton will see out her attachment in Sussex until June next year, and then join the other World Service staff forced out by the cutbacks. The BBC intends to make 100 staff compulsorily redundant, out of a total of 387 job cuts across the World Service and BBC Monitoring.
She praised the World Service as “one of the finest things that the BBC is involved in”.
“What it produces versus its annual cost is extraordinary. To kill it off so fundamentally is something future generations will look back on and despair.”
The BBC has defended the need to make compulsory redundancies in order to achieve the savings set out by last year’s comprehensive spending review. Lucy Adams, the corporation’s director of business operations, said in a message to staff today that the corporation could not agree to the union’s demands for no compulsory redundancies.
“Following the cuts in central Government grants to the World Service and BBC Monitoring we have had to close 387 posts, meaning that regrettably there are nearly 100 staff who as a result are facing compulsory redundancy. We have been working with all these affected staff to ensure that they have opportunities for redeployment and retraining but we cannot and will not give preferential treatment to individuals depending on their union status.
“We hope the NUJ will realise that these issues are best solved at a local level, and a national strike that penalises all our audiences is not in the interests of their members, other BBC staff or licence fee payers.”
Johnston Press bosses in South Yorkshire, who reportedly asked a 16-year-old teenager to cover the news desk during a strike, have asked the work experience student to leave, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.
The teenager, who has just completed his GCSEs, had come to the group’s Selby Times for work experience but, when the strike to protect jobs and quality journalism began at the Selby Times, Doncaster Free Press and South Yorkshire Times on 15 July, management extended his engagement to get the paper out, the union has said.
He was put to work writing news stories – despite having originally asked the paper to do his work experience on the sports desk, the NUJ said.
Rival title the Selby Post reported the story.
NUJ negotiator Lawrence Shaw told Journalism.co.uk he believes “embarrassed Johnston Press bosses” asked the work experience teenager to leave after the paper went to press on Wednesday.
Around 25 members of staff are striking indefinitely, leaving the editor, sports editor and, at the beginning of the week the 16-year-old on work placement, Journalism.co.uk understands.
“In more than 10 years of being a union representative I have never seen a more determined group,” Shaw said.
Asked to confirm or deny the claims both the editor of the Selby Times and Johnston Press’ head office in Edinburgh declined to comment.
The National Union of Journalists claims reporters at Media Wales are demanding “immediate talks” with management following plans to cut 22 jobs at the publisher.
According to the union, under the proposals 10 district office staff, eight production journalists and four members of the sports staff would be made redundant. Media Wales, part of the Trinity Mirror group, publishes titles including the Western Mail, South Wales Echo and the Wales on Sunday.
The NUJ chapel members have unanimously passed a motion which states the chapel “expresses shock at the scale of editorial cuts being proposed”, adding that “it is determined to do everything possible to protect the jobs, wages and conditions of its members, as well as the quality of our products”.
Father of the chapel Martin Shipton said: “We shall be entering an intensive period of negotiation with management to mitigate the damage to our members’ livelihood and the newspapers we produce.
“Members are especially angry that while they are expected to lose their jobs or in some cases take pay cuts, Sly Bailey and her fellow directors continue to be paid obscene amounts of money.”
Within the motion the chapel also authorises its committee “to take whatever action it sees fit in association with the union’s national officers”, which could include organising a strike ballot.
In a statement Media Wales confirmed the proposals, which centre on the introduction of a single production team for news and features across the Western Mail, South Wales Echo, Wales on Sunday and all its weekly titles.
This means cuts to the number of full-time roles in the editorial production department and the introduction of a new part-time system, the company said.
The NUJ congratulates the editor – whose own job is under threat – for “standing up for quality journalism”.
The article, headlined “Strike looms over Times job cuts”, states: “Journalists at South Yorkshire Newspapers are to ballot on strike action over a proposal by the company to axe half of the Mexborough editorial jobs at the South Yorkshire Times.”
Speaking to the NUJ, Jim Oldfield, South Yorkshire Times editor said: “This is real journalism in action. The Times is currently fighting a brave and protracted battle to keep its core towns from decimation during this recession, I make no apology for acquainting our readers with the changes being proposed for their champion title.
“I am pleased that the company appear to have had an adult reaction to the story.”
NUJ general secretary-elect Michelle Stanistreet said “This is a great example of our members standing up for quality journalism and we hope other editors will follow the example set by the South Yorkshire Times.”
The situation at Tindle Newspapers in Enfield, where journalists have already taken industrial action in protest over a lack of staffing, remains tense. A ballot has been returned in favour of further strike action and journalists claim there has been no response from management from their first walk out.
So an announcement today, reported by the campaigning group of National Union of Journalist members on Twitter, that Sir Ray Tindle was to meet with the NUJ Parliamentary group on Tuesday next week, was welcomed by father of the chapel Jonathan Lovett.
There has not been confirmation of the meeting yet from Tindle headquarters, but Lovett told Journalism.co.uk it is a positive step as they decide about action in the near future.
They are meeting and asking him to explain the situation, why he is putting us in this situation and what he is going to do about it … We haven’t had a meeting as such with him so I took it as a positive. I think we can now have a reasonable discussion.
Journalists at Newsquest titles in South London will go on strike for four days next week, from Monday 27 to Thursday 30 June.
The announcement follows a two-day strike last week. Staff are in dispute with the publisher over plans for a reduction in editorial space, redundancies across all sections of editorial, a review of a two per cent pay rise and an office relocation.
NUJ mother of chapel Thais Portillo-Shrimpton said today that staff had not heard from management since last week’s strike.
NUJ negotiator Jenny Lennox said: “We’ve had a very successful two-day strike last week, and it is worth noting that a dozen journalists have joined the union since dispute began. This reflects the deep anger of journalists employed by Newsquest at their bosses’ determination to avoid consulting with staff on the future of their papers.”
Journalists at titles within Newsquest South London have announced that their planned strike action will take place on Wednesday and Thursday next week (15 and 16 June). The strikes follow a dispute over redundancies, a reduction in editorial space, a review of a 2 per cent pay rise and an office relocation.
At the end of May Journalism.co.uk reported that members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest South London voted in favour of strike action, with 22 out of 23 returns of a ballot in favour.
Staff at newspapers in the area, which covers Surrey, Sutton and Twickenham, have been working to rule since 15 April.
NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said: “Our members’ overwhelming decision to take strike action in defence of jobs and quality was the inevitable result of a wrong-headed management policy. But it is not too late for the company to show some sense and sit down with us to discuss the future security of the papers which are so important to our members and their communities.”
Earlier last month the division announced 12 job cuts at a series of titles in the area, including the loss of the sports and leisure department at one of the South London offices.
Tindle has said it will aim to produce the Enfield papers during the strike. Father of the chapel and features editor of the north London papers Jonathan Lovett speculated that they would do this by asking staff from other regional centres to cover.
So are the striking Tindle nine bravely leading the way to stop “churnalism” and deliver a better quality product for readers or are they standing on a picket line for two weeks only to ask the impossible of a company which has been hit by declining sales and advertising?
And, of course, cuts and declining quality is not just happening at Tindle newspapers.
It’s not just Tindle’s arts pages that are cut back, reporters who are over worked and council meetings that are ignored.
The last three years have seen cuts in regional newspapers across the country.
Jobs have been lost, subs’ posts have disappeared, production has moved way beyond the area where the spellings of councillors’ names and villages are known, football reports have been written a long way from the pitch and change pages have been reduced.
So can the quality of regional newspapers be upheld by industrial action taken by the reporters who write them? We would like to know your opinions on this issue.