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Posted on 5 November 2010 at 16:34 GMT

BBC strike reports from the picket lines

Updated 9/11/10
Manchester picket line of BBC NUJ members on strike against attacks on pensions , photo Manchester Socialist Party

Manchester picket line of BBC NUJ members on strike against attacks on pensions , photo Manchester Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

London

Programmes and services across the BBC have been affected on Friday 5 November by members of the NUJ taking industrial action to stop attacks on their pensions.

The strike was solid and saw flagship programmes unable to be broadcast. The Today Show on Radio 4, for example, was replaced with a documentary about Lord Kitchener!

BBC workers could lose between 10,000 and 100,000 if planned changes to pensions are imposed. Changes will mean staff paying more, working longer or getting significantly lower pensions - or all three! This is despite the fact that the amount of any pension scheme deficit at the BBC will not be known until next year.

Meanwhile, senior BBC executives will still get 1million pay-offs and pensions of up to 230,000 a year!

A lunchtime strike rally outside Wood Lane in London was well attended and addressed by NUJ leader Jeremy Dear, John McDonnell MP and Newsnight FoC (NUJ rep) Paul Mason.

The strikers were solid and determined - with many explaining how the attacks on their pensions are just the thin end of the wedge, with workers across the public sector facing attacks on their terms, conditions and jobs.

Strikers at Wood Lane hoped that this round of strike action would be enough, but if it's not then they can see increased anger amongst BBC staff when the pensions deficit is actually announced.

If this ties in with the timing of the Hutton Report on public sector pensions, NUJ members who we spoke with agreed that it would be obvious to coordinate their action with other unions in dispute.

London Socialist Party members

Manchester

Strikers at the Manchester BBC building on Oxford Road mounted a picket line from 5am through the day.

As I arrived, two pickets had just succeeded in asking the breakfast presenter not to cross the picket line, and in turning away the vending machine deliveries too!

Under the proposals from management, workers could lose fully half their current prospective pension.

No interest in talking to the NUJ union has yet been shown by BBC bosses and so the next strikes on Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th November look set to go ahead.

Send messages of support to MOC Michelle Adamson at michelle.adamson@bbc.co.uk, and join the pickets on the 15th as early as you can!

Hugh Caffrey, Manchester Socialist Party

Liverpool

We joined the picket line at BBC Radio Merseyside this morning where four pickets were speaking with people entering the building to raise the issue of the attack on their pensions.

But it soon became obvious that staff there had a number of concerns about their future at the BBC. What many people are not aware of is that these staff haven't had a pay rise for the past five years but instead have been given small one-off payments as compensation which has had the effect of freezing salaries.

And what worries them now is that licence fees have been frozen, and the World Service which used to be funded by government must now be funded by the licence fee.

The NUJ pickets we spoke to were very aware of the fact that government ministers are keen to keep Murdoch and Co happy by reducing the BBC's services and restricting its income.

This will only have a detrimental effect on jobs, terms and conditions. The pickets were also concerned that the wider public are under the impression that BBC employees are on inflated salaries, when the truth is ordinary staff are on pay that is equivalent to people doing similar jobs in the private sector.

As we left we gave them our best wishes and took the opportunity to promote our anti-cuts lobby of the Liverpool city council meeting on 10 November.

They assured us that they would cover it and wished us good luck.

Dave Walsh, Liverpool Socialist Party

Cardiff

Cardiff BBC NUJ members on strike over attacks on pensions, photo by Dave Reid

Cardiff BBC NUJ members on strike over attacks on pensions, photo by Dave Reid   (Click to enlarge)

NUJ members turned out in force on the strike picket line at BBC Wales/Cymru in Cardiff. NUJ members are taking part in a two day strike against the cuts by the BBC to their pensions. The strike severely hit news programmes in Wales and the rest of Britain. On Friday there was no breakfast radio news programme on BBC Wales or Radio 4 and severely reduced news on all other programmes.

Managers failed to provide an adequate service, in part because they sympathise with the strikers - most of them will also lose out if the changes to the pensions go through.

Even though the union Bectu has accepted the changes to the BBC pension agreement, Bectu members supported the NUJ on the picket line and were very supportive.

Trade unionists from PCS, RMT, UCU and other unions turned up in the pouring rain to offer solidarity to the NUJ.

Clearly, fighting cuts in pensions is an issue for all workers and the stand of NUJ members at the BBC will strike a chord with workers in all industries.

Dave Reid, Cardiff Socialist Party

Southampton

NUJ journalists at BBC South in Southampton on strike, photo by Southampton Socialist Party

NUJ journalists at BBC South in Southampton on strike, photo by Southampton Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

"We are very conscious of a view that 'it's alright for them', but most of us are on modest incomes and rates similar to teachers and firefighters.

BBC executives have been raking it in on wages and pensions, fleecing licence fee payers to plump up their pensions.

Now there's a crisis, they're making us pay". This was the angry view of NUJ FOC at BBC South in Southampton, Chris Coneybeer, as NUJ members mounted a successful picket to close down live broadcasts at the BBC in Southampton.

The strike has been 100% solid, with Bectu members refusing to cross the picket lines. Other NUJ members explained how new members had signed up in the recent days and pickets had been mounted across the region including in Reading, Brighton and London.

Reflecting the lie that 'we are all in this together', NUJ members are angry as they pay for a pension holiday taken by the BBC.

Ex-BBC deputy director general, Mark Byford, enjoys a pension of 400,000 a year on top of a redundancy package approaching 1 million.

There was a seriousness on the picket line that this is the beginning of a fight against a generalised attack on workers at the BBC and a recognition that there is a need to link up with other public sector workers to defend jobs, services, pay and pensions.

Nick Chaffey

Leeds

Members of Leeds Socialist Party branch visited striking BBC workers at the BBC offices in Leeds in St Peter's Square, home to staff working on BBC Radio Leeds and Look North.

A small but solid and assured group had gathered by 7am and ran a successful picket, planned to run for 48 hours; leaving the offices darkened and deserted throughout the day.

Striking journalists discussed the reasons for the picket, chiefly the changes being made to their pensions, describing them as changing the rules of the game halfway through.

They also mentioned other changes being made to contracts, particularly for newer workers, and cuts in funding for the BBC, that were key to instigating strike action.

BBC Yorkshire political editor Len Tingle was present at the picket line and as well as showing a great desire to discuss the importance of the action with people approaching the picket line, he expressed interest in becoming involved in the general anti-cuts action happening in Leeds.

The National Union of Journalists at the BBC is due to take further strike action on 15 and 16 November.

Michael Johnson

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