BBC Faces Possible Holiday Season Strike as Union Criticizes Job Cuts
LONDON - The BBC, already in crisis mode following the recent resignation of director general George Entwistle amid reporting missteps, is facing the threat of a holiday season strike by members of a journalists' union.
The union has raised concerns about news that the U.K. public broadcaster has hired outside staff despite job cuts to reduce costs. It argued that existing staff facing the loss of their jobs should instead be redeployed.
The BBC previously agreed to offering people at risk of losing their positions other jobs inside the company. However, the union argues that some BBC executives have not been following through on the promise.
Next week, there will be a vote about a possible strike, and the National Union of Journalists has urged its members to vote in favor of a strike.
The Guardian said that the union highlighted that "a swath" of its members are "facing compulsory redundancy" across BBC News, the BBC World Service, the BBC Asian Network and BBC Scotland over the next year amid the broadcaster's attempt to improve its financial position.
The possible labor dispute is this week expected to be overshadowed though by the final Leveson Inquiry report into U.K. media ethics and standards, which will be published mid-day Thursday. It is expected to propose stricter regulation of British newspapers, which have been using a system of self-regulation that has widely been deemed ineffective.
"Despite signing up to a shiny new redeployment agreement (which looks great on paper), BBC management are still not implementing it," NUJ broadcasting organizer Sue Harris said in a letter to members, cited by the Guardian. "The NUJ has always maintained a principled stance against compulsory redundancy. Sadly, it seems that yet again we have to threaten strike action to make BBC management stick to their own commitments."
A BBC spokeswoman said the broadcaster was "extremely disappointed" about the union's strike push.
"We have implemented all the redeployment commitments we agreed with the joint unions," she said. "We are making considerable efforts to avoid compulsory redundancies. However, the BBC has to make significant cuts, and we have always been clear that it will not always be possible to avoid them completely."
The exact number of job cuts has not been specified. The Asian Network though is currently dealing with a decision to cut its budget by around a fifth, which will mean it will lose around half of its team.