Midday walkout threatens live broadcasts

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NUJ and Bectu members at the BBC will be leaving their desks or studios early on Thursday to begin a half-day strike.

They will walk out at midday, with some expected to join picket lines outside the main BBC centres in protest over job cuts and their impact on working conditions.

Their actions are likely to affect live programming, such as news bulletins, national and local radio shows and some Easter broadcasts.

The strike ballot was called after the BBC refused to suspend its Delivering Quality First cuts programme for six months to allow for further discussion around increased workloads, stress levels and instances of bullying and harassment at work.

The BBC believes this will only cause more uncertainty for staff while increasing the savings burden on the Corporation by £2.5m.

'Clear message'

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, says the strike is 'a clear message to the BBC that it needs to listen to its staff and properly address the problems created by their ill-conceived and badly implemented cuts programme'.

Of the 41% of NUJ voters who took part in the ballot, 61.2% voted for strike action.

Sue Harris, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, adds: 'We can't continue with fewer, less experienced people, taking on more work and more diverse tasks. We can't continue with the casualisation of posts, reduction of training and a culture of blaming staff when things inevitably go wrong.'

At Bectu, 56% of those who voted opted for strike action. A total of 39% of members voted.

Gerry Morrissey, the union's general secretary, who is joining his NUJ counterpart at New Broadcasting House to lead the protest, says: 'The BBC has a duty of care which it is not exercising currently and it is great pity that strike action is needed to make senior managers take the issues seriously.'

'Disappointed'

The walkout follows a one-day strike last month by NUJ members, which took the likes of Today, BBC Breakfast and Newsnight off air. Members of both unions are already observing an indefinite work to rule.

In a statement on Thursday, the Corporation says it is 'extremely disappointed' that the action is going ahead and it apologises to audiences for the disruption to services.

'We have had constructive meetings with the unions in recent weeks and whilst we're unable to postpone planned compulsory redundancies for six months as they requested, we do agree that stress and workload are areas of real concern,' it continues.

'If workloads are going up because of the pressures of working in a 24/7 digital media environment and implementing savings, it's in everyone's interest to understand the issues and work with individuals, their managers and the unions to address it.'

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