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BBC News staff heading for strike action

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BBC sign at Television Centre

© Rex Features

BBC News programmes could be disrupted later this month after staff voted in favour of industrial action over a raft of compulsory redundancies.

Members of the National Union of Journalists working at BBC News yesterday voted 72% in favour of strike action, while 87% backed action short of a strike. The union is threatening to hold two national one-day strikes later this month "unless compulsory redundancies are stopped at the BBC".

The ballot was launched after the BBC announced that a journalist had taken compulsory redundancy in June, which the NUJ said occurred "despite viable redeployment options being available".

Up to 387 jobs are due to be closed at World Service and BBC Monitoring due to cuts to their government funding announced last October.

However, as many as 1,000 posts at BBC News and World Service could be lost as part of the corporation's plans to make annual savings of £89m by merging the two operations.

The NUJ believes that there is a "workable solutions in all cases", and noted that there are "many volunteers that the BBC is currently refusing to release".

The union also condemned the fact that the additional £2.2m given by the Foreign Office to World Service for the next three years "has not been used to halt all compulsory redundancies".

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Once again NUJ members at the BBC have shown they will not accept compulsory redundancies.

"[Tuesday's] result demonstrates that members at the BBC are fully prepared to stand up for their colleagues under threat. If the BBC wants to provoke a strike over such small numbers it would be shameful. We call on the BBC to get round the table with us and sort it out."

BBC News director Helen Boaden told staff in an email, seen by The Guardian, that turnout for the NUJ ballot was less than 40%, and only about 6% of the corporation's workforce voted for strike action.

"We have done all we can to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies by offering voluntary redundancy and redeploying staff elsewhere," she explained.

Boaden said that the BBC would attempt to limit compulsory redundancies, but the large number of posts that must close make this "impossible for us to avoid".

"Our financial position means that we are unable to agree to the NUJ's demands for no compulsory redundancies and delaying taking action now means that we would have to make even more savings in the future, potentially costing more jobs," she added.

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