Studios and Post cuts all voluntary

BECTU has avoided compulsory redundancies in a cuts package that has seen more than 200 staff leave BBC Studios and Post Production.

Picture of Television Centre

BBC Television Centre, West London. (Picture: Tony Scott)

However a handful of potential compulsory cuts is still being negotiated, and the union is not claiming that all cuts have been voluntary yet.

More than 90 of the Post staff who have left employment in BBC Studios and Post Production (S&PP) were TUPE transferred into the BBC itself, after the union argued that although their sections, in Birmingham, Bristol and London Current Operations, were closing, their work would continue elsewhere in the Corporation.

The union has praised both management and local representatives for cooperating over the cuts, and coming up with cost-saving solutions that avoided compulsory redundancies.

Talks will continue over the unachieved redundancies, thought to be fewer than six, until a final review of the situation takes place in September 2009.

Meeting with management

BECTU representatives met BBC S&PP management yesterday (12 May 2009) for further discussions about company’s restructuring and job cuts.

It emerged at the meeting that, thanks to effort and imagination on both sides, the number of potential compulsory redundancies had been reduced to roughly half a dozen, most of them in the Post Production Assistant category.

Given the success to date of the joint union/management strategy of using redeployment, promotion, reorganisation, and other means of achieving cuts without compulsory redundancies, management were willing to defer any selection process in categories where there were too few volunteers in order for local discussions to continue.

The threatened compulsory redundancies have not formally been taken off the table, but no members are at risk at the moment, and by the time the union meets management to review the situation, probably in September, we hope that further cuts will have been achieved by voluntary means.

Members who volunteered for redundancy, whether or not there were job cuts in their categories, will now be approached by management to establish whether or not they are still interested in leaving.

Resources redundancy trawl February 2009
Post Production
Area Proposed
post closures
Editors 38 49
Assistants 26 21
Colourists 3 1
Senior Engineers/Engineers 3 6
Tape Servicing 4 2
Stock & Hire Shop 4 0
Format Transfer 2 1
Scheduling 2 2
Technical Development 1 1
Business Information Team 3 1
Operational Support 1 0
Commercial 1 2
Area Proposed
post closures
Special Projects 7 8
Vision Mixers 4 5
Resource Managers 2 4
Cameras 7 15
Sound 2 7
Scenic Leading Hands 10 4
Others 4 2

No promise has been made that any staff will be allowed to leave, but management want to examine each application case-by-case to determine whether the company could get by without the individual, provided money could be found for redundancy payments etc.

The company said yesterday that it was possible that a budget could be found for some redundancies.

Deteriorating position

BECTU raised the question of the “preferred suppliers pool”, and the planned use of employment agencies to engage some categories of staff who are not defined as Schedule D tax-payers by HRMC.

We have been promised a written explanation of how the system will work, and hope to report more fully to members once we have sight of it.

Management emphasised at the meeting that the process of change within the company will continue, driven partly by the deteriorating trading position of Studios and Post, where work is apparently drying up almost on “a daily basis”, as the union was told yesterday.

Branch Representatives are already expecting discussions on scheduling practices in Post Production, and although the union has not yet been alerted to further job cuts by management, it is reasonable to assume that the merger of Studios and Post could lead to further reductions among middle management and support staff.

Earlier this year management renamed BBC Resources to become BBC Studios and Post Production, and reorganised the management structure.

The discussions over the cuts, which began in December 2008, have not only taken ESPG very close to the union’s objective of achieving any redundancies by voluntary means, but have also given an insight into the company’s detailed finances and trading challenges.

Union officials found examples where the costs of operating parts of the company on a commercial basis within the BBC were exorbitant, and instances where BBC producers were taking work was being taken outside, while the in-house facilities subsidiary sat idle.

Without intervention from the BBC, which is SS&P’s outright shareholder, the company will continue to struggle with rent charges that are far above market rate, and other imposed overheads that none of its competitors have to deal with.

At the highest level

BECTU now plans to raise, at the highest level within the BBC itself, the problems facing SSS&P, and will be proposing that the Corporation should take one of two strategic steps:

  • Devise mechanisms and protocols which ensure that programmes do not take work out of house, or even do it themselves, unless the in-house company is at capacity.
  • Acknowledge that programme departments are building up their own facilities bases locally, go on to close the corresponding, and competing, parts of Studios and Post, and TUPE transfer the staff affected back into the BBC.

The union knows this will jar with the company’s own hopes that an internal solution can be found within S&PP, which everyone obviously hopes will happen.

However the union representatives are now convinced that the problems facing the company are too severe to be solved by further cutting one of the few parts of its cost base where it has full control – namely the staff wage bill.

Union representatives will continue local discussion on the remaining few un-achieved redundancies, and there will be another report once the management/union review has taken place later in the year.

Filed under: BBC Studios and Post Production, News

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Posted Wednesday 13 May 2009 at 1644