News staff vote to strike over job cuts

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Staff in BBC News have voted for strike action over job cuts and the threat of compulsory redundancies.

Almost three quarters of NUJ members who took part in the ballot, which closed on Monday, opted for industrial action that includes walkouts.

Two thirds of eligible Bectu members echoed this response.

Michelle Stranistreet, the union's general secretary, said she 'condemns' BBC News plans, announced in July, to close 415 full-time posts as it seeks to make £48m of Delivering Quality First savings in the next two years.

She claimed it would weaken the output and create 'overwhelming workloads' for remaining staff.

'It will be impossible for journalists to produce quality journalism of the kind they strive to unless output is similarly hacked, without damage being done to our members' health and wellbeing,' she said.

Both unions have sought guarantees from the BBC that there will be no compulsory redundancies, and that the 195 new posts being created as part of the restructure are offered to those whose jobs are at risk.

'470 volunteers'

They said the BBC had refused to give such assurances, despite a high number of people expressing a 'firm interest' in taking voluntary redundancy.

Luke Crawley, Bectu's assistant general secretary, said: 'Given that the BBC has over 470 volunteers for redundancy and 195 new posts to fill it would be easy to give us the guarantees we are seeking.

'The fact that management refuses to do so raise fears amongst staff that the BBC is not committed to redeploying the maximum number of staff.'

The unions have requested 'urgent talks' with Tony Hall to try to resolve the situation.

A BBC spokesperson said: 'BBC News has recently announced a savings programme of nearly £50m to address pressures from the licence fee settlement.

'The process of implementation, as it relates to both restructuring and redundancies, has only just begun. We are aiming to work with colleagues across the BBC and with their union representatives in carrying through this challenging programme.

'We are disappointed that the unions have chosen to ballot for industrial action when the consultation process has barely started.'

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