Business World

Tuesday 20 March 2018

BBC comes under fire after revealing 2,000 job cuts

Alan Jones

The BBC came under attack from unions today after revealing that 2,000 jobs are to be axed under plans to make savings of 20pc.

The corporation published its Delivering Quality First programme, which included savings of £670 (€777m) a year by 2016/17 on top of £30m of savings generated by exceeding targets for its current efficiency programme.

Director general Mark Thompson said the plan meant "stretching efficiencies and significant job losses", adding: "It's my judgment that this is the last time the BBC will be able to make this level of savings without a substantial loss of services or quality or both."

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the technicians' union Bectu, said the programme should have been called Destroying Quality First.

"They are destroying jobs, and destroying the BBC," he said.

Mr Morrissey accused Mr Thompson of doing the Government's "dirty work" by making such big cuts in spending and jobs, accusing the corporation of "salami slicing".

The BBC said it will build on its current efficiency programme, which has already seen savings of more than £1bn since 2008/09, to release a further £400m of savings per year by 2016/17.

The BBC Trust said it had been assessing this work with the help of independent advisers, adding that the savings will be achieved by a more flexible workforce which "reduces duplication of expertise", streamlining the use of technology, continuing to reduce the number of senior managers and increasing production outside London.

A series of meetings will be held at BBC offices across the UK today when staff will be told how the cuts will affect them, while union leaders will meet senior management later.

The National Union of Journalists condemned the spending and job cuts, saying they had come on top of many years of other cutbacks across news and programme-making.

The union said more than 7,000 jobs had been lost at the BBC since 2004, adding that the situation "isn't sustainable".

At a time of falling pay and job uncertainty, staff were being asked to bear the burden of this deal, with cuts to redundancy terms, re-grading being proposed and a move to statutory redundancy consultation periods and performance related pay, said the NUJ.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "This is a watershed moment in the BBC's history - the reality is that the BBC will not be the same organisation if these cuts go ahead.

"You cannot reduce budgets by 20% and pretend that the BBC will still be able to be a world-class broadcaster. Quality journalism and programming is inevitably going to be diluted. If the BBC presses ahead with these changes strike action across the corporation seems inevitable."

The NUJ said it was commissioning research into alternatives to the cuts at the BBC and would take a "vigorous part" in the public consultation process.

Mr Morrissey later raised the threat of strike action by BBC staff unless the corporation changed its stance.

He said: "Whilst it was inevitable in the current climate that the BBC would be asked to continue to reduce costs, responsibility for the current huge challenges which the BBC faces rests with the Government and with the BBC's senior management.

"The shocking 11th hour deal on the licence fee which Mark Thompson agreed with the Treasury last October without any consultation at all was hasty and will be the cause of regret for years to come unless the BBC agrees to revise Delivering Quality First.

"BBC staff have been working harder for several years to maintain the BBC's reputation against a background of a minimum of 3pc efficiency savings every year. Bectu does not believe that today's level of output can be maintained at the same quality and to the satisfaction of the audience with the level of proposed cuts.

"The planned attack on staff jobs and staff terms and conditions is a further slap in the face for BBC staff who are now working towards retirement on reduced pensions and on salaries which have not kept pace with inflation for any of the last three years.

"The BBC's approach to negotiating change is to include in today's announcement dates for implementation. Bectu does not accept that these proposals are a fait accompli and unless the BBC changes its stance, I believe we will see strike action at the BBC before Christmas."

Press Association

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business