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BBC strike against redundancies

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BBC journalists struck on last Friday, against management plans to impose 100 compulsory redundancies. Picket lines were strong and the national strike, by NUJ union members, had a big impact.
Issue 2261
Strikers outside Bush House in London (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Strikers outside Bush House in London (Pic: Socialist Worker)

BBC journalists struck on last Friday, against management plans to impose 100 compulsory redundancies. Picket lines were strong and the national strike, by NUJ union members, had a big impact.

Radio 4’s flagship Today programme eventually began an hour late after a repeat of a reactionary documentary about the Russian Revolution.

BBC television aired a day-old report from the Egyptian revolution instead of its Breakfast television programme.

Sylvia is a striking BBC journalist at Broadcasting House in central London. She told Socialist Worker, “Two out of the six people in my department have had warning letters saying they could lose their jobs in next two months.

“This is terrifying for all of us. We’ve got skills but there are no jobs.”

Mark, an engineer working for the BBC there, joined pickets. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s not just journalists that will be losing their jobs. We’re all under huge pressure.

“Our workloads are doubling as we lose more staff. For me it seems that management are being belligerent. They have no interest in negotiation.”

Strikers won support for their action. In Manchester, pickets turned away a Royal Mail van. Some Bectu union members refused to cross picket lines.

One Bectu member told Socialist Worker, “I scuppered a live programme today! Our reps and other members refused to cross the picket lines.

“Managers persistently asked us if we were planning to work in the run-up to the strike. That tells me they were worried. There was some scabbing but the spirit on the picket line was really good. People feel it’s time to make a stand.”

Manchester Trades Council brought its banner to the picket line.

At Millbank in central London, journalists from other firms, including ITN and Channel 5, stood with strikers on their picket line.

Trade unionists from the PCS, RMT and UCU unions joined pickets at London’s Bush House, along with a student from the London School of Economics.

In Norfolk, pickets organised a rota to make sure that strikers would be there from 6am until 4pm.

In Glasgow, around 40 strikers picketed. The president of the Scottish TUC went to support them, along with a PCS member.

Pickets held placards reading “Murdoch-free zone”. Keith, a supporter, told Socialist Worker, “The news is all talking about videos released by Osama bin Laden. It’s all old, recorded news.

“One striker said they normally had around 50 in the newsroom—today there are two.”

More than 25 people rallied at Bush House, home to the World Service. Labour MP John McDonnell attended the picket and PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka sent a message of support.

A BBC worker from Uzbekistan said, “We’re here to support our colleagues. It’s incredibly difficult to find a job, especially a decent one as a journalist. The World Service plays an incredibly important role in telling the real story about what’s happening in other countries.

“For journalists in Uzbekistan it is incredibly dangerous. Working in London means we can tell the story.”

David, another striker, said, “If they stopped bombing Libya for two weeks they could afford to save the World Service. They can always find hundreds of millions of pounds for war.”

Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ general secretary, told the rally, “BBC management are not serious about genuine negotiations. We offered to go to Acas yesterday but they rejected this.

“Today you are not alone. Not only do your colleagues throughout the NUJ send their support but so do all those throughout the trade union.”

Chris Newlove reports from Teeside: The mood of BBC Tees pickets was a mixture of bewilderment at what the BBC is doing and determination to fight back.

Pickets were organised in shifts while other workers distributed leaflets to the public about the issues that provoked the strike. A postal worker refused to the cross picket line.

Mark Drury, father of the chapel at BBC Tees stated, “Four workers at the World Service face compulsory redundancy while others who are volunteering to leave the organisation are ignored.

‘The NUJ has a policy of opposing compulsory redundancies. This dispute has to be put in the wider picture of the 20 percent cut in the license fee, every station will lose one manager, broadcast assistants will be hit. Journalists will be next in a couple of years.

‘The BBC should negotiate with ACAS but they are refusing. The NUJ stands for community values something which has been eroded by Tory governments.”

Over 30 people rallied outside BBC Television Centre this afternoon. Strikers were addressed by Tony Benn and cheered when it was announced that tonight’s edition of BBC flagship program Newsnight has been cancelled.

Some 72 percent of workers backed strikes in a ballot—and they plan to strike again on 29 July.

Pickets in Manchester (Pic: Geoff Brown)

Pickets in Manchester (Pic: Geoff Brown)

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