UK unions announce BBC strike ballot

MUMBAI: UK unions are to ballot for industrial action across the BBC, following moves by the UK pubcaster to push ahead with plans for compulsory redundancies.

The decision to hold a ballot was taken jointly by the NUJ, Bectu and Unite, the three unions representing staff across the BBC.

A strike ballot had been averted in October after managers backed down on plans to begin the process of cutting 2,500 posts without consulting the unions.

However, BBC Vision has now announced that it will begin selecting people for compulsory redundancy, despite the fact that over 300 people have expressed an interest in voluntary release.

Unions have criticised the decision to begin the compulsory redundancy process without first agreeing on the release of volunteers, potentially putting a large number of people at risk of losing their jobs.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said, “We’ve been very clear with the BBC that any attempt to force through compulsory redundancies will result in a ballot for industrial action. Our members are already deeply concerned about the strain they will be put under as a result of the BBC’s cutbacks. Now management is piling on the pressure by leaving thousands of people uncertain about whether they will have a job in the new year, even though it appears that many of these cuts could be dealt with through voluntary redundancies.

“When a negotiated settlement is within reach it is madness for BBC to force experienced staff out the door. At a time when the BBC needs top-class management it is suffering from poor decision making.

“We urge the BBC to rethink its decision which makes a mockery of the voluntary redundancy process and to come back to 

the table to discuss how we can deal with these changes without resorting to industrial action.”

The BBC issued a statement. "It's difficult to understand, particularly given the very positive position with volunteers in some areas of the BBC where compulsory redundancies are now much less likely, why our unions (NUJ, BECTU and UNITE) have decided to ballot for strike action.

"It's important to say that the vast majority of staff will not be affected by the proposed job reductions. A strike will inevitably hurt the people who pay for our services. It will not change the overall economics of the BBC. The bottom line is that increasing expenditure in one area means reducing it in another.

"The BBC remains above all committed to distinctive quality programmes and services for all licence fee payers. We will continue to have local dialogue with our staff and unions during this time."

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