Second strike hits BBC today

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The Independent Online
BBC NEWS coverage and other live transmissions are expected to be severely disrupted today by a 24-hour strike of journalists and production staff.

Coverage of today's by-elections is likely to be hit by the stoppage, which begins at 9am and affects both television and radio.

Both the National Union of Journalists and Bectu, the union for support personnel, yesterday decided on the renewed action after rejecting a peace formula put forward by management.

In the absence of a settlement, further disruption is expected on Sunday, which would affect coverage of the European elections. The BBC has also been notified of further strikes next Tuesday and Friday. The first day-long stoppage on 24 May hit flagship news programmes and affected both regional television and radio.

Tony Lennon, president of Bectu, said last night that the new action was forced on the unions by the corporation's refusal to table an improved offer. He said the journalists' union in particular had given management the opportunity to enter fresh negotiations, but the gesture was rejected.

The dispute centres on a management plan to introduce performance-related pay and to delegate responsibility for working conditions to departments. Employees were worried that there were insufficient assurances over how they would be rostered and rewarded.

The BBC said management was disappointed by the unions' refusal to accept the 'best possible' offer. A spokeswoman said: 'The BBC hopes that staff will not deprive viewers and listeners of their programmes.'

Margaret Salmon, BBC director of personnel, said the offer covering pay and conditions was the best from any major employer in the industry. 'The unions are out of touch with what's going on in the industry and the views of our licence payers.'

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