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Journalists to vote on strike plan over local news cuts

seamus-dooleyJournalists are set to vote on possible strike action over planned cuts to local news on BBC radio.

The National Union of Journalists has announced the ballot after the BBC announced plans to replace the current two-hour Morning Show on Radio Foyle is to be replaced by a 30-minute programme.

The NUJ says it will take the action after accusing the corporation of abandoning negotiations in which it had proposed a one-hour breakfast show instead.

The Derry-based station was also due to also lose its hourly regional news bulletins as part of a plan to save £2.3m, although the union says these have now been saved following its campaign against the cuts.

An estimated 36 jobs were placed at risk as a result of the proposals and 10 members of staff remain under threat of redundancy, according to the NUJ.

NUJ assistant general secretary Séamus Dooley, pictured, said: “The announcement of a new schedule, due to come into effect on April 24th, is deeply disappointing and leaves the NUJ with no option but to put this matter into dispute. This is no way to conduct industrial relations.

“As a result of the strong stand taken by the NUJ and the massive public support for BBC Radio Foyle across the North-West region, we have succeeded in securing hourly radio bulletins and retaining the principle of a breakfast news programme on the station.

“The NUJ had proposed a one-hour Breakfast Show for a trial period, but management has dug in on the idea of a 30-minute programme.

“The nature of the Breakfast Show is that it has always allowed for informed debate and comprehensive coverage. The range of excellent journalism which has been the hall of morning programming on BBC Radio Foyle will not be possible in 30 minutes with diminished resources.

“Having entered into this process in good faith we were very disappointed with the hard-line position taken by management. We must now put a ballot for strike action in process and advised management on Monday of our intention to do so.

“There is still time for management to reconsider its position. The NUJ, public representatives and community groups made a strong and coherent case for the retention of the Breakfast Show.”

In response, a BBC spokesperson said: “We’ve had lengthy and detailed engagement with the trade unions about our savings and renewal plans.

“Digital news provision from Foyle will be significantly enhanced in addition to radio news programming that will be exclusively focussed on the North West.

“We expect that BBC staffing numbers in Foyle will remain unchanged. This includes some new roles to help deliver local and region-wide programming across the BBC’s services.”