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Interserve staff at BBC vote to strike

The media and entertainment union BECTU has announced that its members working for facilities management contractor Interserve at the BBC have voted for industrial action.

The dispute focuses on planned changes to work practices which BECTU believes will seriously compromise the functioning of buildings in London and lead to large-scale redundancies in engineering, cleaning and logistics. Also of concern, is a dispute over pay arising from the company’s failure to respond to a pay claim submitted in June.

Turnout in BECTU’s ballot was more than 44 per cent, with over 80 percent of its members voting for strike action.

Talks this week between Interserve and BECTU officials representing the logistics team are set to continue after the bank holiday. In the meantime management are considering a counter-proposal from BECTU on plans for the cleaning operation.

Speaking earlier this month, Helen Ryan, BECTU supervisory official, said:

“Although these cuts only affect London at the moment, we believe that the company has agreed to a contract that they are now struggling to deliver profitably and so they are slashing jobs, and we believe they will look to sites outside London next for more cuts.”

Employing over 1,100 people at BBC sites throughout the UK, Interserve has been in talks with unions since early July regarding proposals to cut its engineering team at the BBC in London and Elstree.

The Unite union, which represents workers in engineering, staged strike action over 48 hours at BBC Elstree last week, in protest at the cuts, which could see the engineering team loose up to 54 per cent of its workforce. Two further 24-hour strikes are scheduled to take place from 9am on September 1 and from 9am on September 4.

Unite industrial officer Mike Eatwell commented:

“Since taking over the new contract in April, Interserve has issued a staggering six redundancy notices affecting hundreds of workers from fabric technicians to engineers and cleaners.

“Interserve is seeking to displace experienced engineers and run its operation on a shoestring. Not surprisingly for the BBC, as the client, there are also attractions for a cheaper service. But our members who know the BBC sites and the requirements of the client over many years argue that this will lead to higher costs to the BBC when the reduced service cannot cope.”

A spokesperson for Interserve said:

“While it is clearly disappointing that further strike action may be taken we will continue to work closely with unions and staff representatives to try and reach a suitable agreement for all parties.”

A BBC spokesperson, said:

“This is a dispute between Interserve and the Unions. Interserve has mitigating arrangements in place to ensure that delivery of their services to the BBC are not affected.”



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