For a second time in just over a fortnight, most of the NUJ members working at the BBC were on strike again shutting down many of the flagship programmes for the day. Since the last strike, plenty of efforts were put in by NUJ officials to resolve the dispute but every single proposal they made to try and avoid the strike fell on deaf ears. It was as if the BBC management were sleepwalking into disaster. The union was offering them thousands and one ways of not only avoiding a costly stoppage but also of keeping skilled and valuable staff in employment. They won’t have it.
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet pointed out that “BBC management lived in a fantasy world”. Their position became so farcical that, in one case at BBC Monitoring in Caversham, one NUJ member was escorted out the door having being made redundant, and within hours three new jobs were advertised for which he was qualified. In the end, it was the union and its members that came out of it with flying colours, defending quality journalism and trying to stop cuts that will harm programs.
The first shift to strike was at the BBC World Service which downed tools at midnight. I dutifully joined the nearest picket at BBC Oxford and was fired up by the determination of strikers who are geared up for a long fight, as they were about to embark the next day on a non-stop work-to-rule.
As the phone hacking scandal in the UK reached new heights, the NUJ has been focusing on the intimate links between Murdoch and the British Prime Minister when the ruling coalition set a rotten deal for the BBC which is to last for six years. This licence deal directly led to the imposition of a 20% spending cuts across the BBC. This is what is at the heart of the current cuts at the BBC and it is not a secret anymore that Murdoch, who has been conducting a colossal campaign against the BBC, had had a huge influence on the government’s decision.
This is a dispute that will run and run.