Oi Scab!? Strikes at the BBC.

Recently BECTU recruitment leaflets and strike ballot information have appeared near the departmental coffee machines.

Unions haven’t been historically good for my family. My Grandfather was miner, and saw unions turn from a force of compassion and protection to something just as sinister and corrupt as management and government. My main concern with unions is replacing one power with another. So the employer says ‘you will work’, and the union says ‘you will strike’… where does that leave me? My Grandfather worked down the pit all his life, up to his waist in water chipping out coal by hand with a pick axe for nine hours a day. That’s bloody hard work in my book, there was no upload your CV to monster.co.uk for the likes of him. He retired a few years before the miners strikes of the 80s started, but the whole situation had a great affect on him and he had some very strong opinions. But how does all that relate to my situation? Would I cross a picket line and be a scab? That’s a tough decision.

It tough in one way because my actual position as picture editor isn’t affected by the recent announcements, however, the people I work with and subsequently the sites I produce images and designs for are all subject to potential change, so yes, my working landscape might be affected. But then if my position was affected maybe I’d think different?

Also what’s happening has happened to me before, twice. I’ve been made redundant from my last two jobs, at virgin.net and iBeam/nextvenue. IT’s always been swift, it’s been a shock, but that’s the best way to do it I believe. I’ve always received a big pay out, and found better work within a week. Now I don’t want anyone at all to loose their job, but I do know that those people who do will at least be best placed to deal with it, and in most cases will find something else. I’m in no way condoning the recent announcements, and I fully support those people who challenge and contest management’s decisions, as that’s a good and right thing to do. But lion’s share of the people I work with are mostly university educated, and could, should the worst happen, find work in other media organisations, most of whom have been dealing with this sort of thing for ages now.

No, the people I feel really sorry for the workers of MG Rover at Longbridge, who have no where else to go. There’s no other car manufactures to go to, hell there’s very little ‘anything’ manufacturers to go too.. they’re completely stuffed, they’re the ones who are going to face real hardship, despite a Government rescue package.

But the main question that me and the rest of the people I work with are asking ourselves is, how did we get in this position in the first place? After all, we’re the BBC, we know how much money we’re going to get every year right? Unless a load of people suddenly stopped watching TV we should have had a rough idea of how much was in the bank shouldn’t we? So where did it all go wrong? Did management know what they had to spend, but just allocated it incorrectly or over spend it? Has the media landscape changed that much in twelve months, or has the BBC changed? I think the later. The rest of the (new) media industry seems to be in a period of growth. Or did Greg Dyke really write cultural, financial and political cheques that the Corporation just couldn’t cash?

It’s all big stuff, big issues. What I will say is that at least these latest cuts have gone right to the top, they’ve gone after the big names in my dept at least, rather than just fire a few junior web assistants and divvy out their work load to whom ever is left. Trouble is there’s been a bit of a brain drain now, all ready a number of people have left, and not always because their position is affected, but because they can see the writing on the wall. And the writing is this; that the next six months are going to be HR hell, in fact the HR partner for New Media is one of the people leaving.. ‘speaks volumes’ is the water cooler gossip.

The coming months are to be tough because it’s really hard to keep momentum going when people are worried about the next pay check. So all projects get put on hold, every goes in to blitz mode and keeps they’re head down, it’s mend and make do, and everyone prepares for the worst. Meanwhile the industry and technology moves on six months and we emerge not actually having to make anyone redundant because 15% of our staff have left due to apathy and boredom. Meanwhile we’ve spent £’s on holding ‘change workshops’ and seminars. sigh.

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I've left it here for historical purposes. Please visit my new blog at www.foodjournalist.co.uk


These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
April 2005
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