the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

27 January 2012

BECTU has followed successful strike action at BBC Birmingham with a further appeal to management to suspend plans to move large parts of production away from The Mailbox.

A packed meeting of union members this week (Tuesday 24 January) resolved that if the BBC failed to respond to its demands - and to a growing list of key questions - further industrial action would follow.

The union has also not ruled out a ballot of all staff in Birmingham in an escalation of the current dispute.

BECTU wrote to the BBC yesterday (26 January) to set out its current position.

A union member holds a banner insisting that Birmingham must have a media futurePic: Timm Sonnenschein

The union formally requested that  "the BBC postpone the proposed network TV and Radio programme moves date for at least a minimum 12 months to August 2013 and suspend the redundancy/relocation preference exercise for affected staff."

In addition the union is seeking "assurances regarding the long-term future of BBC Birmingham and the security of employment for staff in the other departments and divisions at the Mailbox, including what departments will be moved in.

"This information must be available to enable staff to consider all their options and their future." wrote Helen Ryan, supervisory official.

Read the union's letter in full.

A 24-hour strike at the Mailbox spanning 18/19 January drew huge support from staff and the public and affected the BBC's production and output.

Commenting on the current state of play, Anna Murray, national official said:

"After successful strike action and huge support from the public, it's clear that opposition to the programme moves is growing and further questions are being raised."

 Questions the BBC must answer

  •  How can the BBC justify creating a 'Bermuda triangle' for network factual TV and Radio production from London-Salford-Bristol?
  •  BBC management is openly saying that the proposals are not about saving money: how does the BBC justify the £5million-plus redundancy/relocation costs plus the cost of walking away from its technology and capital investment in Birmingham?
  • Why has the BBC not listened to the professional advice of its production staff who are saying that the Bristol site is not yet ready to receive the programmes? What is the cost of upgrading the Bristol site to be able to take over this work?
  • How can the BBC justify its best radio drama studio being mothballed for most of the time (The Archers recording takes about six days a month). Is the future of The Archers in Birmingham really sustainable?
  • Why does the BBC argue that it cannot now change the move date because no one will commission anything in Birmingham anymore? This is simply not true - the BBC does dictate where programmes are made when it suits (see the move of programmes to the Nations for example).
  •  What is going to move into the Mailbox or, if nothing, how can the BBC justify paying substantial rent on a vast amount of empty space?

The union's letter concludes:

"We obviously would like to try and resolve the dispute without the need for our members to take further industrial action or escalate action to all members working at the Mailbox. We are therefore seeking a response from the BBC by close of play on Monday 30 January 2012."


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