the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

18 January 2012

BECTU members at The Mailbox, the BBC's Birmingham base, start a 24-hour strike at 15.30 today (18 January) in a dispute over the future of TV and radio production in the city.

BECTU believes that management plans to move a substantial part of the output currently produced in Birmingham to Bristol is fundamentally flawed.

No money will be saved, creative expertise and capacity will be lost to Birmingham and England's second city will suffer a loss in status as a result, says BECTU.

Production of TV programmes such as CountryfileCoast, and Hairy Bikers and some output for Radio 2 and Radio 4 is scheduled to move either to Bristol or to Salford.

Immediate and long-term threat to The Mailbox?

BECTU is concerned that the loss of large slices of production in Birmingham threatens the future of the Mailbox itself and that the prospects for output, such as The Archers and that which comes from the Asian Network will be seriously compromised.

As the strike gets underway several messages of support for the BECTU members involved had been posted on Twitter and the following messages had come in.

Simon Calkin, BBC broadcast systems engineer said:

"To all colleagues in Birmingham, more power to your elbow in fighting these dreadful proposals; it was bad enough losing Pebble Mill; this nonsense serves no useful purpose whatsoever to either the city of Birmingham or, indeed , the BBC itself.

"The Director-General MUST be held to account and MUST enter into proper discussions with all interested parties".

Whilst Paul Vassallo, chair, Central London Programmes branch wrote:

"To all brothers and sisters on strike in Birmingham! We had our branch meeting today (17 January) and passed a cheer filled vote of solidarity and support for all taking strike action.

"On behalf of the branch we wish you every success in this important fight to defend the right to have proper consultations and to defend jobs in Birmingham.

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting organiser was also in touch:

"At today’s (17 January) NUJ M/FoCs meeting our representatives asked me to send a message of solidarity & support to their BECTU colleagues taking strike action in Birmingham tomorrow and Thursday".

Ian Williamson from BBC Belfast said:

"Started my beeb career in Brum at the Mill…..good luck".

Meanwhile Elaine Tucker from BBC Bristol said:

"The shoe could so easily have been on the other foot. Thinking of you and wishing you all power to your elbow".

Mark Scrimshaw sent this message on behalf of BECTU's BBC Divisional Committee which met today (18 January):

"Good luck with the strike you have our full support".

 Background to the dispute

Before the strike ends tomorrow (Thursday 19 January), a public rally will be held in Victoria Square, Birmingham from 14.00 hours.

Management's refusal to enter into meaningful negotiations on the proposals prompted the dispute. BECTU members voted overwhelming for strike action in a ballot which closed on 6 January.

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