BBC unions to ‘trawl for volunteers’ for the sack

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‘The BBC unions agreed ‘a trawl for voluntary redundancies’ during last Wednesday’s four-hour meeting with BBC Director General Mark Thompson.

Thompson would give no guarantee over compulsory redundancies, but reiterated the BBC offer of a moratorium for a year, during which time BBC bosses will be looking for voluntary redundancies.

BECTU technicians’ union and Amicus, representing electricians and carpenters, are to hold consultative ballots of their memberships.

The NUJ will be putting the latest ‘offer’ to NUJ representatives next Wednesday, 15th June.

The NUJ said it ‘reiterated its commitment to avoiding compulsory redundancies at the BBC’ during the meeting with Thompson.

The NUJ added that the BBC has written a letter to the unions ‘which seeks to establish a framework for detailed negotiations on budget and job cuts at divisional level.

‘The proposed framework states that where agreement can’t be reached at divisional talks, the matter would be referred back to national level.

‘The unions will call urgent face-to-face talks with the Director General if the negotiations fail to resolve any issues of the dispute.’

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: ‘We made it very clear that we retain the right to take further industrial action should the BBC fail to engage in meaningful negotiations and adequately address our concerns on the impact of any job cuts on working conditions and the quality of programmes.’

Mike Smallwood, Amicus’ National Officer for the BBC, told News Line: ‘We believe the BBC offer is the best that can be achieved through negotiation and we will be consulting with our members on whether they want to accept it.

‘If they decide to reject it the dispute will be back on.’

BECTU plans to run a consultative ballot of BBC members at the BBC itself and BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources – which are due to be privatised – on the package tabled at ACAS after the May 23 strike.

The union says all three unions, at their meeting with Thompson, ‘agreed (subject to members accepting the ACAS formula) to allow trawls for redundancy volunteers in areas hit by job cuts, in return for divisional-level negotiations on the scale of the cuts, and the impact on staff who remain.’

The BECTU press statement said: ‘If the offer is accepted by the joint unions, then divisional level talks can begin immediately and the trawl for volunteers will run in parallel to those talks.’

It added that in the divisions ‘if the numbers of volunteers that were allowed to go placed an unacceptable workload upon their members, then they would instruct their members to begin a “work to rule” and refuse additional duties.

‘If the divisional level talks resulted in compulsory redundancies then strike action could be re-started within seven days.’

BECTU official and BBC joint unions negotiator Luke Crawley told News Line yesterday: ‘We think the membership will accept and are recommending the offer.’

Asked what would happen if they reject it, he said: ‘Then all bets are off.’

BECTU’s decision prompted the following response from one member to its website: ‘I’m sorry but this all sounds so weak.

‘I thought we had said that it is impossible to trawl for volunteers until we know the conditions people are being asked to work under.

‘And how many compulsory redundancies will be needed to restart strike action? One? One thousand?’ Rob, BBC staff, Nottingham UK 9 June 2005.