Pickets at the BBC in a 2005 dispute
26 February 2013
Increased workload, stress, and job cuts prompt industrial action ballot.
BECTU, the BBC's largest staff union, is planning to ballot members for strike action at the BBC, over increased workload, stress, and job losses, following a year of cost savings.
A union offer of wide-ranging talks to address staff concerns, on condition that job cuts were paused for six months, was rejected by the BBC on February 25th.
Formal notice of the ballot, required under employment laws, was given to the BBC at lunchtime on February 26th, and voting papers will be mailed to members on March 6th.
Gerry Morrissey, BECTU's General Secretary, said: "We would prefer to have a sensible conversation with BBC management about the damage done in the first year of these cuts, but instead we've had to turn up the pressure to protect thousands of members from over-work, bullying, and stress.
"The BBC seems to believe that staff can continue supporting the full range of services despite a 20% reduction in resources, and massive job cuts," continued Morrissey.
Union members at the BBC have reported an increase in disciplinary cases where over-stretched staff are accused of poor performance, and a BECTU survey of BBC staff in December 2012 revealed that bullying and harrassment had become major problems at the Corporation.
According to Gerry Morrissey: "Blame for low morale and insecurity in BBC workplaces rests firmly on the shoulders of managers who signed up to a six-year freeze in the licence fee in 2010. By committing to maintain levels of output despite a drastic reduction in real funding, they turned the BBC from a world-class broadcaster into Mission Impossible".
The BBC's response to this cut in funding has been a savings programme branded "Delivering Quality First", which has seen swathes of job losses across the Corporation, with extra work loaded on to the staff who stay.
Planned to run for six years, eventually cutting expenditure by £430 million per annum, the Delivering Quality First exercise has concentrated on staff savings, with very few reductions in programme output.
Unions have warned that this not only risks overloading the smaller workforce, but will also damage the quality of the BBC's broadcasting and online content.
The BBC's Licence Fee was frozen in 2010, at the same time as the Corporation took full responsibility for funding the World Service, and the majority of the budget for Welsh broadcaster S4C. These two obligations will represent an extra cost to the BBC of almost £300 million in 2014.
The BECTU strike ballot is due to close on March 20th.