Alun Pugh, Minister for Culture, the Welsh Language and Sport, last Friday faced tough questions about the future of BBC Wales and stated that ‘clearly no-one wants to see job losses in broadcasting in Wales’.
During a debate in the National Assembly for Wales, Owen John Thomas was among several Assembly Members who repeatedly drove home the particular importance of the BBC in Wales, where other media were not as strong as in England and Scotland.
Thomas said: ‘It is of great importance that, as a National Assembly, we resist, using all the means at our disposal, the threatened redundancy of 200 staff at BBC Wales.’
Others who joined the outcry over the proposed BBC cuts included Leighton Andrews, Glyn Davies and Kirsty Williams.
Pressed on what steps he was taking to ‘maintain the existing BBC staffing levels in Wales’, culture minister Pugh assured members that he is ‘in regular contact with BBC management and Ofcom’ and that ‘we regularly make our view clear to them’.
He added: ‘Anyone who has been following the recent Dr Who series, which was largely made in Wales, will know what a good job BBC Wales can do.’
The Welsh Assembly debate came on the day the BBC staff unions received a letter from BBC Director General Mark Thompson saying he will be ‘very happy to meet with the full time officials of the joint unions as soon as possible’.
Thompson wrote to the NUJ, Bectu and Amicus, on Thursday (2/6/06), agreeing to their request for more meaningful dialogue and acknowledging the need for ‘mitigating net job losses’.
Thompson told the unions: ‘We have a shared interest in resolving the dispute promptly and working together to build a strong and independent BBC.’
However, he said the talks would be to ‘clarify details’ and there will no change in the number of required sackings which remains at just under 4,000.
Welcoming the response, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear, said: ‘We are pleased to hear that Mr Thompson is willing to get round the table again.
‘We hope that this will result in some real negotiations about the scale and impact of any cuts.
‘We are certain that savings can easily be made without compulsory redundancies and we look forward to achieving such an outcome.’
The NUJ said the talks are expected to take place on Wednesday (08/06/05) afternoon.
Meanwhile, comments published on the BECTU technicians union website revealed BBC members are determined to defend their jobs and the service and feel the need for more strikes.
The union only lists first names to avoid any victimisation.
‘Mark Thompson is to be congratulated for showing that the Corporation has no immediate need to divest itself of BBC Resources. Let him now pay a similar tribute to other members of Staff who together form the BBC’s greatest resource,’ Gareth, BBC staff, London UK 31 May 2005.
‘I believe we shouldn’t rush to accept Thompson’s first offer. Clearly we’ve got Thompson and his band of zombies on the run, and we must secure the best deal for all the staff as well as for the future of the BBC.
‘Thompson says the “peace offer” is final, but can we trust the word of a DG who’s performed so many U turns?’ John, BBC staff, Ruislip UK 31 May 2005.
‘The fragmentation of the dispute will only lead to the Management getting their way. I think it should be “all for one” – or not at all.
‘I feel that the Unions will lose a lot of support for not stepping up the action and calling for more, united, strike action,’ Robert, BBC staff, Edinburgh UK 1 June 2005.
‘I’m really proud of the unions for refusing to accept the BBC’s first offer.
‘The BBC had made some important concessions on the conditions for the sell-off, but refused to consider the implications of enforced redundancy for the whole of the BBC and its audiences.
‘A truly “modern” organisation would need to work with its staff to identify and bring about the right sorts of changes for the future.
‘We have only had a tokenistic set of meetings on “new ways of working” and no meaningful consultation about the effects of the proposals.
‘Ironically, BBC People (who are going to be disproportionately affected by the cuts) are devising high-quality training packages to support this sort of change.
‘But these will be very hard to implement while some of the best staff in the organisation are being made redundant or sold to the highest bidder,’ Rob, BBC staff, Nottingham UK 1 June 2005.
‘The guarantees given to BBC Resources and BBC Broadcast staff are merely fair, given that many staff don’t want to be privatised in the first place.
‘The remaining staff can take little consolation from the “offer” as there is little benefit in waiting to January 2006 to be told you’re being made redundant in June.
‘As the unions have pointed out, the redundancies could easily be made voluntary, and the “essential” savings could easily be made elsewhere.
‘I believe a three-day strike is the minimum we should be looking at to make Thompson realise we won’t go meekly,’ Tim, BBC staff, London UK 1 June 2005.
‘Keep up the pressure; please don’t fragment the dispute. One BBC, joint unions, one dispute, mass action, and the sooner the better,’ Simon, BBC staff, London UK 1 June 2005.
‘I feel that the BBC has offered negligible concessions and delaying tactics so far.
‘Of course, Mark Thompson is going to say that these are not negotiable.
‘That’s all part of the strategy. The union has to negotiate from a position of strength not weakness.
‘Remember that management never makes any concessions until it has to.
‘To state clearly that there is a possibility of further industrial action is merely the clarification of the union’s strategy, and using phrases like “blackmail”, “holding a gun to the head” is just emotional language.
‘Those people who feel they would just like to take the redundancy package and run need to remember that there is a possibility that they could be turned down, which is the flip side of compulsory redundancy.
‘They should also remember that this might mean that they are among the ones left behind to cope without adequate support.
‘Finally, not much mention has been made of the fact that the BBC is proposing to use the licence payer’s money (yours and mine) to fund this destructive exercise,’ Lucy, BBC staff, Bristol UK 1 June 2005.