BBC director-general Mark Thompson’s plans to slash 2,500 jobs and increase outsourcing at the corporation have created shock and anger among workers.
The Bectu, NUJ and Unite unions, who represent workers at the BBC, reacted to Thompson’s announcement on Thursday of last week by stating that they would launch a ballot of their members if management tried to trawl for voluntary redundancies.
This forced the BBC to postpone plans to issue redundancy letters and agree to union demands for talks on a national framework agreement. These talks will take place over the next two weeks.
This is a step forward, but the unions have also postponed a ballot pending the outcome of talks.
The unions cannot allow themselves to get bogged down in talks over the number of redundancies.
The future of the BBC is under threat and a campaign, alongside industrial action by workers, is needed to defend it.
A Bectu member told Socialist Worker, “The mood among workers is very angry and horrified. People are shocked at the viciousness of the plan.
“As well as the job cuts management want to get rid of the unpredictability allowance for new workers. This is an extra payment for workers whose shifts are incredibly anti-social.
“Everyone can see that this is about divide and rule, and people think that if management get away with this they will come for those workers already on the unpredictability allowance.
“On the job cuts, departments are already so cut to the bone, we can’t see how people could be got rid of and the quality remain.
“The unions could easily build up a fight against this. But the question is what sort of leadership are the unions going to give. If the unions called a strike ballot I’m sure they would win it.”
Becky Branford, a journalist on the world desk of BBC News, said, “Management have had a cavalier attitude and not bothered to consult with the union over these cuts.
“In my department audio-visual staff are taking a massive hit. There is a sense of shock there as people didn’t realise how badly they would be affected.
“People are very scared and worried about how this will affect the quality of the services we provide. We are worried that these cuts will take us backwards.
“There are plans for the privatisation of the factual and learning department, which is losing 700 to 800 jobs. Producers will be sacked and production outsourced, which is in line with the increased commercialisation of the BBC.
“Staff don’t feel that Mark Thompson has defended the interests of the BBC.
“In the run-up to the announcement I went to the best attended and most vocal chapel (workplace union branch) meeting in years.
“The anger felt there won’t dissipate in two weeks.
“Perhaps having the breathing space while the talks happen will give the unions the opportunity to discuss what our goals are and what we need to focus on other than compulsory redundancies.”