BBC strikes ‘suspended’ but mass sackings to continue

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IN a major climbdown the BBC trade union leaders have suspended, ie cancelled, next week’s 48-hour BBC strike and will be holding a meeting of trade union representatives on Tuesday May 31 to put the BBC management offer to them.

The trade union leaders are making no recommendation to the reps, and will be leaving the decision up to them, in a major dereliction of duty.

They are leaving the magnificent movement against BBC mass sackings and privatisation in the lurch, after last week’s magnificent strike action by 15,000 BBC workers.

At the just concluded ACAS talks, the BBC made no concessions, except to postpone the date for imposing compulsory redundancies until July 1 2006, and to agree a framework for discussions which might ‘mitigate’ job cuts in 2006 and 2007, when they will be compulsory.

Far from conceding on privatisation the BBC ‘offered assurances’ to staff in BBC Broadcast that the new owners would guarantee the protection of terms, conditions and pension rights, and would not sack them for at least a year.

It further offered to postpone the privatisation of BBC Resources Ltd and its Outside Broadcast Business unit until June 1 2007. The only concession on privatisation was a relatively minor one. The BBC said that that the company’s Costume and Wig section would not be sold, and would instead transfer to the BBC’s archive department.

The BBC programme to sack 4,000 workers and to privatise important sections of the corporation remains intact, with minor adjustments in time scale, and with the BBC offering the union a role in helping with the redundancy programme, and, in particular, to ‘trawl’ for the maximum number of ‘voluntary’ redundancies.

The BBC offered that job cuts for voluntary redundancies would begin in June, and that the trade unions would be able to have negotiations with the management in each division to discuss the viability and impact of local job cuts.

If the trawling does not come up with the required number of redundancies, management will conduct ‘retention or selection exercises’ to choose staff for compulsory redundancy, these redundancies to begin on July 1 2006.

A Bectu statement said that the BBC ‘management and the trade union leaders agreed that “they had a vested interest in mitigation and phasing” of cuts and new investment to avoid staff being re-hired after being made redundant.’

It is no longer a question of stopping cuts and privatisations but of mitigating and phasing them in!

However, this is not to be the last of the redundancies at the BBC.

The last paragraphs of the BBC letter to the trade unions state: ‘As we have previously confirmed, both Monitoring and World Service are in a parallel review process but their plans are subject to the BBC Board of Governors and FCO agreement.

‘We are still awaiting the outcome of the Cabinet review of monitoring.

‘We have to work to the FCO’s timetable which may mean that there will not be any announcements regarding the World Service till mid/late July. . .

‘The BBC gives a commitment that the compulsory redundancy commitment of 1 July 2006 would also apply to World Service and Monitoring staff.’

The BBC management and the government are already lining up the trade union leaders to support the next phase of the BBC sackings and privatisation programme.

There is no doubt that the BBC Governors, with the government behind them, are setting out to tear the guts out of the BBC to completely commercialise, trivialise and bastardise broadcasting in this country. The BBC reps must reject the BBC’s offer on May 31, and tell the trade union leaders to get up off their knees and start fighting to defeat the BBC jobs and privatisation massacre – or else resign and make way for leaders who will fight.