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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2005, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Q&A: What next in BBC strike row?
A 48-hour strike planned by BBC staff, eight days after the first walkout, has been suspended following talks though the night between management and unions.

The unions - Bectu, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Amicus - are meeting on Tuesday to consider their next move.

What is the current situation?

A two-day strike planned for Tuesday and Wednesday was called off on Friday after 20 hours of talks at conciliation service Acas.

The unions announced they were suspending strike plans "as a gesture of goodwill" and to allow them to put the BBC's latest proposal to their members.

But a joint statement said: "The unions are not recommending acceptance of this proposal."

BBC management made significant concessions over privatisation but had not yet addressed fears over job losses, the unions said.

What has the BBC said?

Stephen Dando, head of human resources department BBC People, said the corporation welcomed the suspension and it hoped this was "the first step in what will be a productive relationship with the unions".

"The BBC believes an opportunity to resolve this dispute is now in sight," he said.

Could there be more industrial action?

The first walkout took place on 23 May - the BBC said 38% of its workforce refused to report for work, while the unions put the figure at 55%.

The NUJ quoted a figure of 99% disruption to news and current affairs.

Despite the loss of flagship programmes such as Radio 4's Today, BBC Two's Newsnight and BBC One Breakfast, the BBC insisted the disruption had been "less than we thought".

The unions have said they reserve the right to call further strikes should the BBC's latest proposal be turned down by members.

If the strikes roll into the summer, they could affect live programming such as Wimbledon and the G8 summit in Scotland.

BBC News 24 staff have been taking part in "work to rule" action since April, with staff refusing to work past their contracted hours or fill in for more senior positions. The NUJ says this could be employed across other parts of the corporation.

What is the dispute about?

Director General Mark Thompson is cutting 3,780 jobs at the corporation - almost one in five of its UK public service staff.

That involves 15% cuts across most departments - with some sections suffering greater losses and others less affected.

Mr Thompson has said the cuts are necessary to streamline the BBC and take it into a rapidly-changing hi-tech broadcasting environment.

The cuts would "rip the heart" out of the BBC, according to the NUJ.

The unions called a strike because the BBC would not rule out compulsory redundancies and because, the unions said, the corporation refused to enter into "meaningful negotiations".

The BBC has said that compulsory cuts are likely.

What effect did the first walkout have on perception of the BBC?

The Telegraph said it had sympathy for strikers but "the BBC cannot go on shutting its eyes and blocking its ears to the facts of economic life in this multi-channel, digital age".

Times television critic Joe Joseph said the biggest irony was that "the BBC faced the challenge of covering one of the biggest news stories - how its news-reporting capabilities were severely hampered by a strike".

The Sun's political editor Trevor Kavanagh said "the strikers were playing into the hands of their enemies" by infuriating listeners and viewers.

"There may or may not be legitimate arguments about BBC job losses," he wrote.

"But strikes which wipe out 24 hours of news and comment are not the way to settle them. Strikes cost customers. They are the outdated weapon of last resort."


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