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Strike plan halted amid bid to save 300 journalists from redundancy threat

Michelle Stanistreet 1Planned strike action over local news cuts has been paused after plans to remove the threat of redundancy from 300 journalists were revealed.

The National Union Journalists members has announced members working in BBC local radio, who were due to stage a 24-hour walkout this Friday to coincide with the results of the local elections, will now consider a new deal to end the dispute instead.

The majority of NUJ members at the BBC had backed industrial action following proposals to share local radio programming across its 39-station-strong network and an initial 24-hour strike went ahead in March to coincide with Budget day.

But, following talks brokered by the arbitrator ACAS, a revised deal has been put forward that would remove the risk of redundancy from 300 journalists.

The redundancy threat arose from plans first revealed in October, which will mean all 300 journalists working in local radio having to re-apply for their own jobs.

At the time, the BBC announced the proposed loss of 139 radio roles and a concurrent investment in local digital journalism to create 131 new jobs.

The journalists have now been sent a consultative ballot on whether they are willing to accept a revised proposal from BBC management and end the dispute, or to reject it and continue with strike action and the work to rule.

The plans include new guarantees on redeploying those who will lose their roles, plus putting on three extra pairs of weekend breakfast shows and an agreement for the BBC to conduct stress risk assessments in each region ahead of the new structure’s introductions.

This means that from noon on Friday 28 April to Tuesday 9 May the work to rule is paused and the planned strike on Friday 5 May is postponed.

If the proposals are rejected, the work to rule will recommence from Wednesday 10 May.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, pictured, told the union’s delegate meeting: “Our action to date has been hugely impactful. TV regional news bulletins were taken off air, local radio shows had to be axed.

“The work to rule has built massive cumulative pressure, not least because it has demonstrated to BBC bosses outside of BBC Local just how much work is done in local BBC sites because of the sheer amount of professionalism, good will, and acting up of members day in day out.

“It’s a result of that pressure that the BBC got back around the table this week, into talks brokered by ACAS, leading to a revised proposal that is going out to all our BBC Local members.

“Regardless of where that industrial dispute ends, our campaign to reverse these damaging cuts, and to keep BBC Local radio local, which is building extensive political support and anger, will continue until the BBC sees sense.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We are hopeful for a positive outcome to resolve the current industrial action.

“Our aim is to achieve a better balance between our local online and broadcast services at a time when millions of people increasingly turn to their mobile first for news and information.

“The changes see no reduction in funding or overall staffing levels across our 39 local bases in England. We will continue to work closely with our teams to support them through these changes.”

In a separate dispute, members working for Radio Foyle in Derry are being balloted on whether to take industrial action over cuts at the station. A result is due early next week.