Please don't cross the picket line

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 22 May 2005

On Monday, for the first time in my life I will be on strike, and on a picket line.

The BBC management and the unions recognised by the BBC are in dispute over a "cost-saving plan" that will see at least 3,500 jobs lost, and further outsourcing and privatisation of the corporation's staff and assets. That means changes affecting one in five members of staff. Given the public negotiating stance of both the BBC's management and the unions I find it difficult to see where a compromise can be found.

I won't be striking for fun or to have a day off. I won't be losing wages because I can afford it and it doesn't matter. I won't be on the picket line because I haven't got anything better to do.

I'll be doing it because I genuinely believe that the BBC's management is going about making these changes to the organisation the wrong way.

I think that you will find few people, especially within the BBC's New Media department, who don't think that the BBC could save money and be more efficient by using technology better and reducing some inhibiting bureaucracy. I also think you will find few people who agree that simply reducing the staff levels to 80% whilst maintaining 100% of the output and workload is the way for the BBC to go.

The deadlock means that currently the headcount reduction is being done at random as various people up-and-leave. For me this is not a way to strategically reduce costs or make efficiencies.

I am fiercely proud of the work that I and my team do, whether it is delivering the homepage, providing the vote to name the Wembley Bridge, the pan-BBC Complaints process, the system underpinning email newsletters, live chats, or dropping into the Points Of View message board as hosts and guides. I work with some of the most brilliant, intelligent and dedicated people I have ever met.

That is why I will be on strike tomorrow.

For my friends and colleagues who read this, and who are still undecided, I ask, please don't cross the picket line tomorrow.

4 Comments

You have my best wishes and support. I dearly hope this gets settled in a civilised, and perhaps more importantly, timely fahsion. Otherwise some of the most passionate, driven and intelligent people will do just what you suggest - leave the BBC.

"I think that you will find few people, especially within the BBC's New Media department, who don't think that the BBC could save money and be more efficient by using technology better and reducing some inhibiting bureaucracy."

Surely it's true that smarter tech use and reducing bureaucracy would reduce some costs, yet in this statement (indeed that whole paragraph) it isn't clear whether your for or against these measures.

If you're striking because you think the BBC is going about things the wrong way, then let's hear YOUR views, not those of a 'few people'.

I kept my membership to the union when I left the BBC, but it's 'pending', so I suppose I'm not really part of it anymore. But I couldn't have come in today when all my old colleagues are out, despite the fact that being out of permanant work means that a day's wages missed will hit very hard indeed. If it stops anyone else being made redundant like I've just been from my 'new' job, then I'm not sorry. We'll eat cake.

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