I ARRIVED at BBC Pacific Quay seconds before the doors opened and the scene quickly began to resemble a throwback to the ’70s in the neighbouring shipyards, with workers streaming out onto the picket line.
It was an awe-inspiring moment as the crowd surged forward to listen to their national union officials.
BECTU Organiser, Paul McManus, laid it on the line. It was all about stopping what we believe to be ‘major-scale mismanagement’ across the BBC and he reminded ‘the troops’ that this scene was being replicated all over the nations and regions of the BBC, with journalists and technical staff ‘hitting the cobbles’.
As he wound up and handed over to me, I realised where I was, surrounded by some of the most eloquent professional people in the country and I had no prepared speech.
Glancing quickly down at the expectant faces, I ‘clocked’ at least five of the NUJ members who have faced the axe in recent months and it was easy to channel the anger and frustration attached to this dispute into what I had to say.
This was about seeking to protect colleagues from the threat of compulsory redundancy.
It would have been perfectly understandable if I had choked on my first words. However the words tumbled out, that, in my opinion, this was the worst management team I have ever experienced in 20 years. Cue applause.
It culminated in a bold statement demanding the need to replace the current management.
For the next hour or so there was a buzz about the place, as old friends mingled, some of whom having worked their last shift, and taking voluntary deals, ended their BBC experience with the bizarre action of a walkout accompanied by hundreds of colleagues fighting for those who remain.
It was a special day but also just another in what promises to be a long fight unless the new BBC director-general, Tony Hall, can ‘see the light’.
Paul Holleran is the Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists. Says the NUJ website: “BBC NUJ members went on strike [today] together with technicians and other members of broadcasting union, BECTU, over compulsory redundancies, excessive workloads and bullying and harassment within the Corporation.”