With less than 48 hours to before the first NUJ strike action against the great pensions robbery proposed by the BBC management, news of how programmes will be affected are being reported. BBC Journalists stand to lose thousands of pounds every year under draconian new pension plans set to be imposed at the Corporation. The following appeared today written by Tara Conlan for the Guardian web site.Newsnight, Radio 5 Live and the BBC News Channel are likely to be severely affected by Friday’s strike action over changes to the corporation’s pension scheme. It is understood that some of the BBC’s top names including Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney, and Radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell, Shelagh Fogarty and Victoria Derbyshire, plus other presenters from the station, are planning to not cross National Union of Journalists picket lines during the 48-hour strike, which begins at midnight tomorrow.
Unless an 11th hour deal can be reached, the walkout called by the NUJ, which represents about 4,100 BBC journalists, will see picket lines outside all the corporation’s main buildings including Broadcasting House and Bush House in central London and Television Centre in west London.
According to sources there have been attempts to bring in a freelance to work on The Review Show, which airs after Newsnight on BBC2 on Friday night, rather than Kearney and Wark, but the individual involved rejected the offer when they realised it would be “strike busting”.
One insider said: “Newsnight is pretty solidly behind the strike. And there are a lot of reporters in TV news that are planning to stay away too.”
Last time the BBC went on strike in 2005 Jeremy Paxman was scheduled to present Newsnight but did not turn up for work, along with other big name news presenters including Fiona Bruce and John Humphrys.
This Friday, Humphrys is due to present Radio 4’s Today programme from China, with Sarah Montague co-anchoring from London.
It is understood that Simon Mayo is planning not to front the Radio 5 Live film show he presents with Mark Kermode on Friday afternoons, but is due to present his Radio 2 programme. BBC Breakfast and the BBC News Channel are also expected to be hard hit.
One source said BBC managers were considering drafting in journalists from the regions or the BBC World News channel to work on the domestic operation.
In 2005, BBC News 24 presenter Susan Osman fronted several news bulletins throughout the day, including the 1pm BBC1 show, while Akhtar Khan, from magazine show Fast Track, anchored BBC Breakfast and BBC World’s Stephen Cole presented the Six O’Clock News.
Although technicians’ union Bectu has decided not to strike, some of its members who work producing shows in news galleries have said they will not cross picket lines. Some have even announced they are leaving Bectu and joining the NUJ.
In a newsletter to its members, the NUJ said there is a “simple way to stop the strike”, adding: “If the BBC were to agree that, should the pension scheme deficit be less than the £1.5bn when the formal valuation is published in the spring, they would reopen negotiations, the threat of strike action could be lifted immediately.”
The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, was due to email staff this afternoon about the pension deficit and the strike. BBC management has argued that changes to the corporation’s generous final salary pension scheme are essential to tackle a deficit its forecasts at between £1bn and £2bn.
A strike planned for the beginning of October by all five BBC unions – the NUJ, Bectu, Unite, the Musicians’ Union and Equity – was called off after last-minute negotiations.
After BBC management made what Thompson described as a final improved offer, last week members of the other four unions voted to accept the proposal.
However, BBC NUJ members rejected the offer and the union called two 48-hour strikes. A second two-day stoppage is due to take place from 15 November and the NUJ has threatened further industrial action over Christmas if the pension dispute is not resolved.