In My Opinion: Paul Holleran: On the BBC Scotland work-to-rule

AS widely reported these last couple of days, BBC Scotland news and sport faces disruption from Friday after NUJ members took advantage of an UK-wide ballot for industrial action from last year. The Glasgow-Edinburgh chapel gave notice to management of a work-to-rule starting on Friday night.

The move came after management admitted, at a meeting on Thursday, that none of the nine members at risk of compulsory redundancy have been redeployed into permanent posts, although four are currently on temporary attachments until the end of March.

NUJ policy is to fight compulsory redundancies and the chapel had no hesitation in unanimously agreeing to trigger the dispute.

A motion highlighting the failure to redeploy as the reason to move to industrial action was discussed in depth and agreed on Friday morning and the union general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, legally informed management later that day.

Feelings were running high at the chapel meeting, which happened only days after senior BBC management had addressed the education and culture committee at Holyrood.

There was a robust defence of the cuts, but it didn’t go down too well and a number of members had expressed anger at attempts to minimise the concerns of the NUJ and our sister trade union, BECTU.

It was unfortunate too that head of news, John Boothman, cast doubt on staffing figures. They had been provided by members of a workforce who have seen job cuts decimate the newsroom, and we will now have to provide a detailed list to the politicians to show we were not wrong and that John should have recognised the figures put to him by convener, Stewart Maxwell.

For me, it was also a bit galling when director, Ken MacQuarrie, told the committee that I had congratulated management efforts on redeployment (which I had) but he never finished my statement warning of the strength of feeling among the chapel and worrying stress levels in news and current affairs.

A work-to-rule is not easy to run successfully, unless the whole chapel is on board. In this case, the chapel is solid and standing foursquare behind nine at-risk colleagues but also for themselves, as they know only too well the difficulties facing them if these cuts go through.

Paul Holleran is the Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists.