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Olympic torch relay in Wales faces industrial action

18 May 2012

BECTU's dispute with BBC Wales over its dismissal of trade union official, Heidi Williams, continues despite 12 hours of talks at ACAS, yesterday. The dispute also has the full support of the NUJ. Earlier this week members in both unions voted strongly in support of strike action in a challenge to the BBC's alleged victimisation of a trade union official.

Earlier today (Friday 18 May) BECTU and the NUJ issued the following press release.

Olympic torch coverage in Wales to be hit by BECTU and NUJ strike

Coverage of the Olympic torch arriving in Wales next Friday (25th May) will be hit by BECTU and NUJ members taking strike action. The industrial action is in protest at the decision by the BBC to dismiss the chair of the BECTU branch at BBC Cardiff, Heidi Williams.

Members were outraged at the decision to dismiss their long serving branch chair and asked to be balloted for strike action. There was a strong vote in support of Heidi Williams with members voting by nearly three to one in favour of strike action.

NUJ members working for the BBC in Wales who were balloted separately have also returned a big majority for strike action.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute BECTU and NUJ accepted an invitation to ACAS but after 12 hours of talks no agreement was reached and this means that the strike is now inevitable.

BECTU has always been seeking the re–instatement of Ms Williams. In an attempt to achieve that goal and settle the dispute and allow the coverage of the Olympic Torch relay to go ahead, BECTU tabled a proposal at ACAS to go to binding pendulum arbitration to decide whether Heidi’s dismissal was fair or not.

BECTU was prepared to accept that if the neutral arbitrator decided that the dismissal was fair Heidi Williams would leave the BBC. If the conclusion was that the dismissal was unfair then Heidi would be re–instated at the BBC. If the BBC agreed to go in to the process then the strike set for next Friday 25th May would be cancelled. This proposal was rejected by the BBC but the joint unions have said that it remains on the table.

Assistant general secretary, Luke Crawley said:

“Regrettably this means that live coverage of the Olympic Torch as it start its journey through Wales to Cardiff will be severely affected. We remain committed to supporting our union reps in BBC Wales and the offer of binding arbitration remains on the table. The surprising failure of BBC management to pick up the offer leaves us with no alternative but industrial action.”

Sue Harris, national broadcasting organiser, NUJ said:

“NUJ members are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with their BECTU colleagues. Our members have worked hard preparing for the Olympic Torch coverage but they are firm in their support of a union officer facing dismissal in this way.”

ENDS

Note for Editors:

Binding pendulum arbitration means that both sides agree on an independent arbitrator and also that they will be bound by the outcome of the process. The process is quick and relatively cheap as it does not involve lawyers. Each side presents their case to the arbitrator who can only decide to re–instate Heidi Williams or to uphold the dismissal. It is different from conciliation as found at ACAS because it produces a definite outcome one way or the other. If pendulum arbitration were embarked upon either Heidi Williams would be reinstated or she would be dismissed without compensation.

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