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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
BBC staff strike over job cuts
Pickets outside BBC Scotland
Pickets outside an entrance to BBC Scotland's Glasgow base
Broadcasting unions at BBC Scotland have staged a 24-hour strike over job cuts across the corporation.

Live programming on TV and radio was seriously disrupted by the first of three days of strike action.

The stoppages are in protest at plans to cut some 200 jobs in Scotland, releasing about 10m by 2008.

The corporation says the changes are needed so the BBC can invest more in programmes. Unions say the cuts are the most damaging in BBC history.

BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland and Scottish breakfast bulletins on television were off air. The lunchtime edition of Reporting Scotland did not go out, neither did Newsdrive on BBC Radio Scotland.

The STUC believes that the cuts will seriously damage BBC Scotland and have serious implications for the Scottish economy, democracy and cultural identity
Grahame Smith
STUC

The main edition of Reporting Scotland was reduced to five minutes and there was no Newsnight Scotland.

A statement from the BBC in London said: "The service we have been able to offer on live programmes, and the number of staff reporting for duty, is slightly better than expected.

"The latest figures show that, overall, nearly 60% of staff due to work today have come in, although we acknowledge that the picture across the BBC is mixed.

"The BBC believes the best way forward is for unions to return to the table. We apologise to viewers and listeners for any disruption."

Scottish figures

In Scotland, 1,098 staff were due at work on Monday but only 394 (36%) were present.

Two more days of action are planned - Tuesday 31 May and Wednesday 1 June.

Across the corporation, unions said they expected about 11,000 out of the BBC's 27,000 staff to take part in Monday's strike. The planned changes would see 3,780 jobs go and parts of the corporation being privatised.

BBC
The strike started at midnight on Monday

Last month, BBC Scotland controller Ken McQuarrie told MSPs that 176 jobs would go from content and output departments, representing 13.5% of the corporation's 1,300 Scottish content, output and local support staff.

These would be phased over the next three years "where possible" through redeployment, natural staff turnover and voluntary redundancies.

Another 19 posts were to go from "professional services", Mr McQuarrie said.

'Better nature'

Three unions - Amicus, the National Union of Journalists and Bectu - are involved in the strike.

Speaking on Monday, BBC Scotland National Union of Journalists' spokesman Pete Murray said: "We're hoping to appeal to the better nature of BBC management, if they will come and talk to us at the picket lines.

"We do not have a problem with the BBC cutting jobs but we do have a problem with the director general Mark Thompson slapping down a portfolio of decisions and expecting the unions just to sit back and listen."

Later, about 70 staff gathered outside BBC Scotland's Glasgow headquarters for a rally.

Mark Thompson
Director general Mark Thompson is under fire from the unions

Stephen Low, father of the NUJ chapel, said: "We are pleased with the turnout this morning and at the moment there seems to be more people outside the building than there are inside and we hope this will continue."

Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan told the rally: "I'm here with a group of workers who are involved in a very serious battle to defend your jobs and to defend the quality of one of our few nationalised industries that are left."

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead joined a BBC picket line in Aberdeen.

Mr Lochhead, MSP for North East Scotland region, said he was protesting at potential job losses in the north east.

"The number of staff here on strike today indicates the strength of feeling over the BBC's proposals to cut staff numbers so dramatically," he said.

'Unifying institution'

Mike Smallwood, national officer of Amicus, said: "The BBC is a unifying British institution which acts as the nation's conscience but these redundancies will damage the UK at its core."

The STUC said it "strongly supported" the strikes.

Deputy general secretary Grahame Smith said senior management must stop the implementation of "these drastic cuts" and enter into "meaningful negotiations" with the trade unions.

"The long-standing practice of seeking controlled savings through voluntary redundancies and alternative redeployment should be part of those negotiations," he went on.

Green Paper

"The STUC believes that the cuts will seriously damage BBC Scotland and have serious implications for the Scottish economy, democracy and cultural identity.

"We will be raising this matter urgently with the Westminster and Scottish administrations."

The BBC is to publish a response to the Green Paper over its future on Tuesday.

The paper has recommended the corporation receive another 10-year charter, but has suggested the abolition of its board of governors, and urged the BBC to invest more in public service programming.




SEE ALSO:
MSPs question BBC Scotland chief
26 Apr 05 |  Scotland


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