BBC threatened with staff flare-up on Bonfire Night

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The Independent Online

BBC executives are facing fireworks on Bonfire Night unless they are able to reach agreement with broadcasting unions over plans to slash staff numbers. Immediate strike action was averted last Friday – the day of threatened redundancy letters – after the BBC said it would postpone its trawl for 1,800 staff to cut.

Bectu, the National Union of Journalists and Unite have now entered into two weeks of talks with the BBC, concluding on 5 November. They described the timetable as "tight".

The dramatic events on Friday capped a week of turmoil for the media sector in which ITV admitted that it owes £7.8m to viewers stung by a series of TV phone-in scandals. It could face a fine of up £70m. Both organisations are braced for further turbulence.

Unless the BBC signs up to a national framework covering issues including redeployment and training of staff facing the threat of redundancy, union leaders say strike action is certain.

"Past experience shows redeployment doesn't really happen at the BBC. It pays lip service to the idea and then nothing happens," said Helen Ryan, supervisory official for Bectu's BBC division.

"What we will be looking for is a consistency of approach across the organisation to avoid redundancies," she added.

BBC bosses last faced serious strike action in May 2005, also over cuts.