BBC holds talks with unions to avert strike action

LONDON – BBC management is holding last-minute talks with broadcasting unions to try to avert next week's strike action, which could cripple the corporation's radio output.

The BBC is to meet with members of broadcasting unions Bectu, NUJ and Amicus later today to thrash out a deal to avoid strike action on February 15 and February 22, with up to 500 BBC radio and music staff prepared to walk out.

Strike action was confirmed last week, prompted by the the radio restructure, where three jobs are effectively being merged into one in the division.

Mark Thompson, BBC director-general, has proposed 239 job cuts with 124 new jobs created merging radio, studio and online production into one role. Unions are seeking concessions on pay and the amount of work new staff will have to cope with.

Luke Crawley, Bectu negotiator, said last week that Bectu union members are very angry and are prepared to strike.

He said: "If the BBC want to improve their offer then the time is now."

The argument about the radio and music job cuts has been raging for more than a year, since Thompson announced the broadcaster was to be hit by the 3,780 staff cuts. It came to a head in a ballot just before Christmas where members voted to strike.

A BBC spokesman would not comment on what radio shows would be affected if the strikes do go ahead, but it is understood BBC producers might be forced to pull the plug on top shows such as the Radio 4 'Today' and 'Woman's Hour' as well as the Chris Moyles' flagship Radio 1 breakfast show if not enough technical staff turn up.

BBC unions pledged to fight for all job cuts to be voluntary in a campaign last year, which culminated in a strike on May 23. A third of the BBC's workforce failed to show up for work resulting in Radio 4's 'Today' programme, 'The World at One' and 'The World Tonight' being cancelled.

BBC One's '1 O'Clock News' and '6 O'Clock News' was shortened from half an hour to 15 minutes and live programming of BBC News 24, BBC World and Five Live was extensively cut.

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