1000 BBC staff sacked by VHS
BBC chief Mark Thompson has used a video cbuttette message to announce the Corporation's biggest-ever jobs cull.
Message from HQ - "you're fired!"
Staff in the BBC's 3,200-strong professional services departments today (March 10) watched the 13-minute tape on TV monitors in disbelief as Thompson revealed a cuts plan in which 980 are to be made redundant, and another 750 handed over to new employers in outsourcing deals.
Up to 420 more staff carrying out support roles in programme-making divisions and the BBC's nations and regions also face either redundancy or outsourcing under Thompsons' plan to slim down the Corporation.
The cuts represent the first wave of change in the Director-General's strategy to cull thousands of staff in advance of the political debate about renewal of the BBC's Charter in 2006.
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Further announcements are expected later this month about the cuts needed to deal with 15% budget reductions being imposed on programme-making departments, and Thompson has warned that "significant" redundancies could follow. Production staff in Factual and Learning division have already been told that 400 of them could go.
Unions have already threatened that compulsory redundancies and sell-offs will be challenged by any means at their disposal, including industrial action, and negotiators are due to meet senior BBC executives on March 11. Another high-level meeting is likely on March 21, when unions have been warned that announcements could be made about cuts in programme-making areas.
Today's announcement of almost 1000 jobs being axed - the largest single redundancy plan in the BBC's history - hits staff in five BBC departments: BBC People, which includes training, health and safety, and HR specialists, BBC Finance, Marketing Communications and Audiences (MCA), BBC Strategy, and the BBC's Policy and Legal department. Staff doing comparable jobs elsewhere in the BBC are also facing the chop, but the only figure given to unions was an estimate of 420 cuts among this group.
Details of the changes are being delivered to staff locally, but the unions have already learned that almost half of all staff will go in Occupational Risk Debt Management - the health and safety section - and in BBC People only 450 out of 1000 staff will remain at the BBC if the changes go ahead. Redundancies will account for 200 cuts in BBC People, and another 350 jobs are to be outsourced.
In Rights Group and Information and Archives, part of BBC Finance, roughly 240 jobs face the axe over two years, excluding Commercial Rights whose redundancy figures are not yet available.
Overall, areas affected by today's announcement will lose 46% of their staff through redundancy or outsourcing, fractionally below the 47% cuts target for back office functions set by Thompson in December 2004, following a review he commissioned on value-for-money in the BBC.
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Many of the departments affected are, according to the unions, crucial to the smooth and safe running of the BBC, and concerns have already been expressed about the effect on staff in other parts of the Corporation.
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Thompson's announcement comes just a week after the joint unions, BECTU, NUJ, and Amicus, kicked off a campaign against his savage cost-cutting plans. Thousands of staff wore union-issued badges to support the call for the BBC to halt cost-cutting, and abandon plans for further privatisation, in particular the sale of BBC Broadcast, which began last week, and the possible disposal of BBC Resources.
Meetings of union members hit by today's announcement are due to be held later in March, and officials have already reported shock and anger among staff facing redundancy.