James Forsyth

An example of union hostility against people who want to do their jobs

An example of union hostility against people who want to do their jobs
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Amongst BBC political staff, there’s mounting concern about the plans for a strike during Tory conference. One of them said to me at Labour conference that they just didn’t know what to do, they had been put in an impossible position by the decision to call the strike on such politically important days.

These journalists fear that striking during Tory conference would undermine the corporation’s reputation for impartiality. So, a whole host of them wrote to their union rep asking him to make representations on their behalf. His reply shows just the level of hostility these people — who are just trying to do their job — are up against:

'Of course I will represent your views, and those of others at Millbank who have supported the strikes in spite of the timing. No one at Millbank has jumped for joy at the choice of dates, me included. I don't know who is and who is not on the "political staff" by your definition, but even I share your reservations.

However, your fellow signatories could have been more vocal sooner, rather than relying on this kind of last minute, back room letter. I can hear your views perfectly well by email as by personal conversation.

The problem at this stage of the process is:

1. (Obviously) this only seems to be a big issue at Millbank.

2. Some of the names listed below are not members at Millbank, so they should have been putting pressure on their own M/FoCs to make it a big issue elsewhere.

3. Not everyone listed below is actually a member of the NUJ. M/FoCs only represent members of the NUJ, and only NUJ members can mandate them to vote in a particular way.

4. The strike dates have been backed by members from the NUJ and other joint unions in all other chapels across the BBC.

5. As illustrious as some of the names are on the list below, Unions work democratically, by majority vote.

6. The dates have been backed and supported by every other chapel in the UK. As such their reps are now mandated to support industrial action (if it is still required) on Friday.

7. You are asking me, as a single rep from a single chapel to ask everyone from the other 4 Joint Unions and every BBC NUJ chapel (except Millbank) to call off the strike because a small number of people disagree with it. I mean, I will... but you can see the odds are ever so slightly stacked against me.

8. I hope all of you have written a similar letter to the DG/Helen Boaden/Sue Inglish in the same terms, expressing your strong views, because they have more power to end this dispute than I do. If you have not, then shame on you.

It would be more comfortable if we weren't being asked to do this, on these dates, but we are where we are. It would be more comfortable if the BBC had left our pensions alone. This is an important battle and we have a very limited window in which to protect the pensions of *everyone* in the BBC, not just those select few lucky enough to count themselves among what you call the "political staff".

The UK's healthy media will ensure that the Conservative's message gets out to people. But David Cameron will not step in to sort out the BBC pension robbery to thank you for your trouble. This is not a quid pro quo. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this.

I will take your letter and the motion from the last chapel meeting with me on Friday and present them both in no uncertain terms to the M/FoC council. I can do no more than that. However, the tied vote from the previous chapel meeting still stands. Taking this into account, I will abstain from any vote calling for industrial action on 5/6 October.

I'm sure you will receive other responses to this letter. I remain of the opinion that anyone who finds themselves at work on a strike day is making themselves complicit with the BBC's robbery of everyone else's pension. I only wish the BBC valued your impartiality, loyalty and diligence as highly as you do.'