Wales staff to strike during Olympic torch coverage

BBC Wales broadcasting house The Bectu and NUJ strike will hit Olympic torch coverage

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Bectu and NUJ union members in Cardiff and Bangor have voted to strike in protest against the dismissal of tv producer Heidi Williams.

The strike is planned for 25 May - the day the Olympic torch is due to reach Cardiff. BBC Wales' flagship early evening news programme Wales Today and BBC Cymru Wales' news programme for S4C, Newyddion, are both broadcasting specially extended hour long programmes on the day.

The unions had previously claimed the tv producer's dismissal had exposed an anti-union agenda as she was a representative for Bectu.

The NUJ website says members of the broadcasting union Bectu voted three to one in favour of strike action and NUJ members have also returned a majority.

The NUJ says unions and BBC management spent 12 hours in talks held by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service but no agreement was reached.

The broadcasting union Bectu are asking for Williams to be reinstated in her post.

Bectu had said that they will cancel the strike if the BBC agree to go through neutral arbitration, a proposal rejected by BBC management.

The judgement of the arbitration would have focused on whether the producer's dismissal was fair. The union asked that the arbitration be binding - so if it is decided her dismissal was unfair, the BBC would be obliged to reinstate her.

BECTU Assistant General Secretary Luke Crawley says the offer of binding arbitration remains on the table. 'The surprising failure of BBC management to pick up the offer leaves us with no alternative but industrial action,' he says.

NUJ National broadcasting organiser Sue Harris says her union are continuing to support Bectu. 'NUJ members are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with their BECTU colleagues. Our members have worked hard preparing for the Olympic Torch coverage but they are firm in their support of a union officer facing dismissal in this way.'

A BBC Cymru Wales spokesperson said they are 'extremely disappointed that BECTU has decided to deliberately target our coverage of the Olympic Torch Relay next weekend'.

BBC Cyrmru Wales have asked BECTU to begin a new round of mediation - led this time by a judge expert in employment law.

The spokesperson said the BBC have refused pendulum arbitration because 'important matters of employment law need to be determined properly (rather than cheaply or quickly) and that an Employment Tribunal is the right forum for this'.

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