Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1692


Bad news from BBC

A KEY battle has broken out in the BBC which has exposed the discrimination that is rife in the World Service. New BBC director general Greg Dyke said last week that he wants to tackle institutional racism in the BBC and to recruit more staff from the ethnic minorities.

Yet two trade union activists, Nandi Weerathne and Somaye Zadeh, are both being sacked by World Service managers after they spoke out against such discrimination. Nandi has been a long serving worker at the World Service's Sri Lanka section and Somaye at the Persian section. Both have had notice of the termination of their contracts. "Foreign" World Service workers have lower wages than other BBC workers, suffer worse conditions and are excluded from management positions. They are deliberately put on short-term contracts under the BBC's "new blood policy".

The BBC argues that they need a continual turnover of fresh staff from the countries the World Service broadcasts to. The policy acts to discipline staff from overseas. If they kick up a fuss staff have their contracts terminated and are "repatriated" back to their country of origin. Many then get in trouble with their authorities because of the way in which the British foreign office uses the World Service to promote its diplomatic policies. As a staff member says, "You get a two year permit. Your residency in this country is tied to it. "Imagine a person from Indonesia, here for two or three years, is critical of the Indonesian military and then is told to go back home." 

The BBC managers use this fear to discipline staff, and to stop them from joining a trade union. The media unions, BECTU and the NUJ, should get 100 percent behind Nandi and Somaye, as should all BBC workers. BECTU has a formal policy against fixed term contracts in the World Service which includes "a publicity campaign, public meetings, lobbying and, if necessary, industrial action". The union's leadership should be pressured to put those words into action. 

  • A petition is circulating in the workers' support. For more details phone the SWP industrial department on 020 7987 1919.
  • Public meeting, Tuesday 18 April, 7pm, Room A85, London School of Economics. Speakers include Imran Khan and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

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Article information

Fri 14 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1692
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