BBC Kingswood Warren faces strike

Members at the BBC’s Kingswood Warren research centre will strike next week over plans to move them to London.

The strike, called for Friday 29 August, follows lengthy talks with the BBC.

“The base is an academic community which nurtures new ideas and solutions. Our members fear that relocation signals the beginning of the end of world-class BBC research.”

Staff believe that they are being treated badly and that the move will compromise the quality research which has kept the BBC at the forefront of technological development for decades.

The BBC is selling its historic research base and plans to move staff to its White City offices.

BECTU members question whether their new accommodation will provide the quality laboratory space or the environment required to develop next generation technologies.

“Kingswood doesn’t just have high capacity internet links, an anechoic chamber and the facility to build prototype equipment quickly and cheaply.”

“The base is an academic community which nurtures new ideas and solutions. Our members fear that relocation signals the beginning of the end for world-class BBC research.” explained BECTU national official, Anna Murray.

But the dispute does not only challenge the extent of the BBC’s commitment to broadcast research; BECTU is also exposing the BBC’s treatment of the staff affected.

The dedicated professionals who use their scientific prowess to help the BBC to achieve its public purposes, have no choice about the move. The Corporation’s mobility policy states that moves of under 30 miles do not trigger the option for staff to leave the BBC on the grounds of redundancy.

Members are concerned that, after an initial period of financial help, they will be unable to afford the daily commute into London. The BBC has insisted that no-one will be out of pocket; however, the current proposals do not guarantee this.

The timing of the move, during an economic downturn and after a below-inflation pay settlement in August, could not be worse. Staff also believe that their wellbeing will suffer because of the lengthy journey times they will face.

Looking ahead, some teams know that their work will move to the BBC’s new Salford base; staff are keen that they and their projects should not be subjected to a “double bounce” from Kingswood to London to Salford.

“Members have been arguing for several years against the rationale for the move. They remain unconvinced about the integrity of the BBC’s plans either from the research or staff points of view.” continued Anna Murray.

Commenting on the result of the industrial action ballot, which was declared on 20 August, and reported to the BBC’s Future Media and Technology division, she said:

“Our members take their responsibilities seriously and they don’t want to withdraw from work that they love. But management’s refusal to rethink the move or to demonstrate that their plans are workable or, at the very least, to ensure that staff are adequately compensated for this huge disruption to their lives, means they have no other option.”

Friday 22 August 2008