BBC News Averts Strike

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The U.K. broadcaster's coverage of a referendum on Scottish independence could have been affected

BBC News has averted a strike of its staff that could have affected coverage of a referendum on Scottish independence next Thursday. A union representative lauded BBC director general Tony Hall for his role in reaching an agreement.

The BBC put a moratorium, until at least the end of March 2015, on planned compulsory job cuts. It previously said it was looking to reduce its news staff by more than 400, for net job losses of 220. The BBC said it was open to staff requests for voluntary redundancies. It wasn't immediately clear what terms those would come with. 

The U.K. public broadcaster said the deal was reached after "constructive discussions with the unions."

Hall this week had a meeting with representatives of the National Union of Journalists and Bectu, a union for technicians, which helped set a framework for an agreement to prevent a strike.

BBC News is also instituting a freeze on external hirings, which some internally have criticized amid the job cuts. BBC News is led by former Times editor James Harding as director of news and current affairs.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said in a statement: "We’re pleased that common sense has prevailed and that a sensible solution has been negotiated following talks with Tony Hall."

She added: "NUJ members are deeply concerned that the proposed job cuts will have a devastating impact on their ability to produce quality content. That NUJ members were prepared to take strike action is a measure of that concern and a reflection of how low morale at the corporation has fallen."

She concluded: "That the management within News now have to come up with their plan as to how posts can be lost without burdening already over-stretched journalists is a sensible step forward."

Twitter: @georgszalai