Cuts mean more work for BBC staff

Many BBC employees who escape redundancy in the current round of cuts will have to pick up the work of others who leave.

At the first meeting to discuss almost 1,000 job cuts in the BBC's professional services departments, management revealed that after staff had been made redundant, programme-makers and managers elsewhere in the Corporation would be expected to take on some of their duties.

In particular, programme production staff will be expected to cover for sacked finance workers, only one third of whom will remain on the BBC's books, while managers everywhere will have to take on responsibility for some tasks currently performed by Human Resource specialists.

Unions were expecting the BBC to present full details of the major redundancy and outsourcing plan at the meeting on March 11, following DG Mark Thompson's announcement of 980 job cuts, and a further 750 posts being handed to new employers.

However, with the exception of BBC People division, which includes HR, recruitment, training, and safety staff, most of the BBC's back office divisions had not progressed far beyond setting targets for job cuts, and were unable to identify exactly which areas faced the axe.

Nor were managers able to pinpoint the 420 "embedded" staff in programme-making areas carrying out specialist finance, HR, or marketing role, who also face either redundancy or outsourcing of their jobs.

Although precise figures were scarce at the five-hour meeting, the details that management did present to the unions confirmed the Thompson plan as the BBC's worst ever cull of jobs, and negotiators described it as "a sad day in the BBC's history".

Unions paid tribute to the expertise of many back-room staff, whose contribution they said was essential to the BBC's programme-making activities, and expressed doubts that producers and managers elsewhere would have the time or training to replace them once they were made redundant.

Most of the jobs threatened with redundancy are in the BBC Finance, Property, and Business Affairs Division (FPBA), where more than 500 posts could go. In Finance itself, which accounts for roughly 270 of these jobs, half of those who survive redundancy will see their jobs outsourced to third party providers.

In other BBC departments run by Finance, unions were told that 140 jobs could go in Informations and Archives, which runs the Corporation's film, TV, and radio archives, and another 60 redundancies could occur in the Talent Rights section.

Another 200 jobs are marked for closure in BBC People, and a further 350 posts are to be outsourced by the division. In Marketing, Communications, and Audiences, which does everything from public relations to audience research, management said that 119 jobs out of roughly 450 would go.

Jobs are also threatened in two smaller divisions, Strategy and Distribution, and Policy and Legal, and in all cases management said that few non-staff savings had been found to lessen the scale of redundancies.

Although all the cuts are planned to take effect over the next two years, giving Thompson a saving of £139 million a year, only BBC People is poised to begin the process of cutting jobs. Because the Division had already begun an internal review prior to Thompson's announcement of a major BBC shake-up last December, management hope to be able to invite volunteers for redundancy to step forward as early as April this year, with staff beginning to leave in August.

Apart from the job cuts in BBC professional services, more redundancies are likely to be announced on March 21, following a meeting of governors on March 17 which is expected to approve plans for a 15% reduction in programme budgets, and a cut in programme-making capacity from 75% of output to 60%, in order to allow more independent productions to be shown.

15 March 2005