Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strike threat issued as BBC dispute hits front pages

Today began 12 hours ago - and it's only 5.15pm - and it could go on long in to the night too as the BBC dispute has boiled over.

Did radio interviews for BBC Radio Kent, Newcastle, Cumbria, Merseyside, 3CR Luton, Essex, Humberside and Solent all before 7am.

Then it was on to the 7.30am briefing by Mark Thompson on his planned cuts - much as expected - 2500 job cuts - but with a few nasty surprises thrown in, like the ending of UPA (the BBC's anti-social working hours payment) for new starters. Worse than that was the contempt with which we were treated. 20 minutes to ask questions on such a fundamental plan before he was whisked off to brief the media (even before briefing staff!).

We were left with the clear impression that the BBC were not interested in negotiating with us - they wanted to present us with a fait accompli.

From 9am we started doing TV - Sky, News 24 - and more national and local radio interviews - as well as the media podcast for The Guardian and numerous newspaper comments.

At 12 noon we began the joint unions' (NUJ, BECTU, Unite) reps meeting - one of the biggest and most determined we have ever had - reporting back on the talks with mark Thompson and the BBC's plans. The anger was clear and a unanimous decision was made to ballot for strike action unless the BBC agreed to meaningful negotiations and to halt the redundancy process to allow such talks to take place.

That meant it was back in front of the TV cameras with BBC News and Sky camped out in the lobby of the NUJ's HQ.

A quick media statement was prepared for the printed media and then it was back to doing interviews.

In between I've tried to keep up with other calls and some emails but I'm falling way behind in getting back to people. Sorry. I have however prioritised getting to the membership department the applications from BBC staff as they realise how important it is to be in the union. Why does it take a strike threat to convince some people to join the union? Oh well, better the sinner...or something like that.

Sadly because of the dispute I have had to cancel my planned visit to Ireland to attend the Irish Delegate Conference. It is a hard decision to make - the last thing I want is for members in Ireland to feel the issues affecting them are not important to the union but with President Michelle Stanistreet and Deputy General Secretary John Fray there I believe it is the right decision to stay and deal with the BBC dispute. I'll send a message to the conference in Ireland tomorrow for its opening.

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