This year’s Strictly final, Christmas special and other shows, including Sports Personality of the Year, are at risk as three major unions begin balloting their BBC members over 24-hour strikes. The move is in response to the corporation’s salary and redundancy plans under the Delivering Quality First initiative.
“DQF threatens fundamental and far-reaching changes for all BBC staff,” said Bectu’s Gerry Morrissey. “Without a change to the BBC’s position, we are under no illusions that a vote for strike action will mark the start of a programme of industrial action which could affect the highlights of the BBC’s autumn/winter schedule, including the Strictly Come Dancing finals and the Sports Personality of the Year awards.”
The aim of DQF is to reduce costs for the BBC in light of a freeze on the licence fee. The main issues concerning unions are redundancy settlements and alterations to the current system for people – such as news staff – whose working hours change at short notice.
Lucy Adams, BBC Director of Business Operations, said: “Last week we met with the joint unions for the first time following the announcement of the DQF conclusions. We are fully committed to a constructive dialogue with the unions about flexibility allowances and our pay and grading structure. However, we are at the earliest stage of talking these proposals through with our staff and have not even begun formal consultation with the trade unions.”
The three unions involved – Bectu, the National Union of Journalists and Unite – are to ask members about strike action. The ballot is due to close on 24 November and if there are to be strikes, they could begin from early December.
No December schedules have been published yet but Strictly Come Dancing’s current series should air its last three live shows on Saturdays from 3 to 17 December. Strictly Come Dancing – It Takes Two is due to air ten editions in December.
The Christmas special is potentially at risk, too: traditionally it airs on Christmas Day, but is recorded in the week before the main show’s finale, which means there’s little room for it to be rescheduled. Filming could be moved to after the series ends, but that would mean new contracts for everyone and the risk that key people are no longer available.
The BBC Trust is running a public consultation about the DQF proposals.