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26 May 2005 13:55
Crunch talks between the British Broadcasting Corporation and trade unions began on Thursday in a bid to divert another strike at the world’s largest public broadcaster next week over plans to axe almost 4 000 jobs.
Thousands of journalists and technicians at the BBC will stage a 48-hour walkout from Tuesday if the meeting breaks down. They already caused chaos this week
with a one-day strike that halted live broadcasts and affected other services.
“We are hoping to begin proper negotiations,” said Luke Crawley, national officer of the broadcasting union Bectu.
“The BBC now have an opportunity to talk with us and if that is the case we will be here for a long time.
If not, we will be out by lunchtime,” he said.
Crawley spoke as he and the leaders of two other unions behind the protest arrived at the London headquarters of the conciliation service Acas for the meeting with BBC managers.
Mike Smallwood, national officer of Amicus, which represents hundreds of electricians at the national broadcaster, said unions did not want to be “dictated to” by the corporation about the level of job losses.
“One of our many concerns is about the workload on people who will be left after the job losses,” he said.
“We hope to sit down with the corporation and put forward the concerns of our members and hopefully the corporation will move away from its position of arbitrary 20% job cuts.”
The BBC was represented by Stephen Dando, director of BBC People, and Adrian van Klaveren.
Tony Studd, national conciliator at Acas, was chairing the talks.
BBC director general Mark Thompson appears determined to stick to a plan, announced in March, to cut 3 780 jobs from a 27 000-strong work force to make savings of 355-million pounds ($663-million).
Thompson has promised that the savings will go towards more and better programming, but union leaders are sceptical. - Sapa-AFP
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