MEMBERS OF the Bectu broadcasting union at the BBC have voted overwhelmingly for strikes against the privatisation of the corporation’s information technology operation, BBC Technology.
BBC Technology has staff in White City, Broadcasting House, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
There were spontaneous walkouts in those places over the Hutton whitewash and the attack on the corporation’s independence last year.
That’s the kind of spirit we need to build up again over this privatisation offensive.
German multinational Siemens has been named as the BBC’s “preferred bidder” for BBC Technology.
This incorporates much of the IT support broadcast engineering division.
On a turnout of nearly 70 percent, 84 percent of Bectu members voted for action.
Bectu members in News IT are also being balloted separately over plans to transfer a quarter of staff to the technology section earmarked for privatisation.
Siemens management has refused to give guarantees to the 1,400 technology staff about their jobs, conditions and pensions.
The company is only prepared to guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies for 12 months after the sale.
BBC managers are known to have drawn up a secret plan called “Project Leo” for savage job cuts in technology last year in the run-up to the sell-off.
Staff have every right to be worried about the sale. Siemens is currently fighting a bitter battle with the unions in Germany as the company attempts to enforce an increase in the working week from 35 hours to 40.
The multinational is threatening to cut thousands of jobs if staff refuse to work five extra hours a week without extra pay.
Meanwhile the BBC expects to make savings of up to £30 million a year from the sell-off.
That can only mean less access to IT expertise, fewer software applications supported, and fewer technicians available to keep the corporation’s networks running.
The privatisation of technology is only the thin edge of a very large wedge.
Strike dates had not been announced as Socialist Worker went to press.
When they are, every BBC worker should mobilise support for the strikers.
If Bectu and NUJ members in other divisions refuse to cross picket lines we can bring much of the BBC to a halt.