20 August 2014
BBC engineers and technicians across London take strike action
Engineers and technicians – members of the UK’s largest union, Unite – working at Interserve on a BBC contract have this morning (Tuesday 19 August) begun strike action at BBC sites across London and at the Elstree Studios in a dispute over compulsory redundancies.
The industrial action was unanimously supported by the 160 engineers and technicians – with 93 percent voting for strike action – and is due to end at 09:00 on Thursday 21 August.
Interserve, the supplier of facilities management services to over 150 BBC buildings, had initially given notice to make three quarters of the engineers redundant – this was later amended to just over half – both notices have been rejected by Unite.
The engineers and fabric technicians maintain all the BBC’s assets across London including those that are broadcast critical. The union has sought in vain for risk assessments of the proposed new manning arrangements and has challenged Interserve’s list of assets that the workforce oversees.
The union is seeking Interserve cease its dismissal process and answer key questions on health and safety concerns. It is believed that Interserve agreed a price for the contract that was significantly below other contract bidders and is now struggling to achieve any form of profitability.
Unite industrial officer Mike Eatwell said: “Since taking over the new contract in April, Interserve has issued a staggering six redundancy notices affecting hundreds of workers from fabric technicians to engineers and cleaners.
“Interserve is seeking to displace experienced engineers and run its operation on a shoestring. Not surprisingly for the BBC, as the client, there are also attractions for a cheaper service. But our members who know the BBC sites and the requirements of the client over many years argue that this will lead to higher costs to the BBC when the reduced service cannot cope.
“The union has requested risk assessments on Interserve’s plans but instead of receiving assessments based on site and task specifics we received generic assessments that fail to identify the true risks.
“Interserve has claimed that their Maximo smartphone system will save administration time and perhaps it will. But at present our information is that it does not work so rushing into dismissals now is premature.
“The BBC has chosen to not interfere until there is an actual breach of the contract with Interserve. Sadly, though this is one of those issues where by when the expertise and knowledge will have gone -replacing it will be a lengthy task.”