Wimbledon and FA Cup threatened by strike action over BBC job cuts

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Coverage of Wimbledon and the FA Cup final and the Today programme could be affected by strike action, after 84 per cent of BBC staff voted for industrial action over job cuts.

In a ballot that closed at lunchtime yesterday, an overwhelming majority of union members voted to strike over the BBC's plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs as part of a drive to save £355m a year by 2008.

Representatives of the National Union of Journalists, the broadcasting union Bectu and Amicus, will meet this morning to decide on what form the industrial action should take. Options include taking strike action for eight, 12 or 24 hours. Almost half of the BBC's staff - which totalled 27,000 before the cost-cutting drive - belong to a union.

As the unions are required to give the BBC seven days' notice, the earliest date that they could take action is a week on Friday. A stoppage on 20 May, which could continue into the weekend, would affect preparations for the FA Cup final, as well as regular live programmes including Today and Newsnight.

If strikes continue into the summer, Wimbledon, to which the BBC holds exclusive rights, is a serious target. Union membership is particularly strong at Radio Five Live, which further threatens the corportation's live sports.

The NUJ secretary general, Jeremy Dear, said: "This result is a reflection of the huge anger at the scale and impact of Mark Thompson's cuts. The package is badly thought out, doesn't add up, will do irreparable damage to quality and standards and has been soundly rejected by staff."

A BBC spokesman said: "Given the scale of the changes that the BBC needs to make, and that the unions have not allowed us to talk to them in order to address their concerns, we are not surprised by the ballot result, but we are disappointed, because we would prefer to continue constructive discussions with them."

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