"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

National Union Of Journalists Picket 5/11/10

Earlier today members of the NUJ undertook the first of a string of planned short term strikes over the planned changes to the BBC’s pensions policy.

This first strike is set to last for 48 hours and we went along to join the picket line in Norwich. When we arrived at the Forum about fifteen striking workers had assembled with placards, leaflets, folding chairs and tubs of cake, they looked like they were in it for the long haul. The workers were soon joined by members of other unions, members from the Norfolk Coalition Against The Cuts including Ian Gibson and of course the contingent from NCAG.

We were told by workers that they felt betrayed by BBC director general Mark Thompson who negotiated a deal before he was legally obliged too and they felt by rushing into this decision he hadn’t taken the time to work out the best terms for employees. In a speech a union representative further reprimanded Thompson, accusing him of flip-flopping over terms, figures and language in order to confuse the workers allowing him to force through an unfair contract.

There was also a degree of frustration with those who had refused to join the picket, and protesters grumbled that their colleagues couldn’t see ‘the bigger picture’. This bigger picture seems to be that if the BBC is allowed to take millions from it’s employees’ pensions fund as it is planning to do, that cuts in jobs,  pay and working conditions will soon follow. More over the BBC is being used as a sounding board and pilot scheme for cuts all over the public sector, they want to see what they can get away with the BBC and use it as a model for the wider cuts which are now looming.

Despite the strike not being met with universal approval and solidarity from within the BBC there was good news as the the local news broadcasts had been disrupted and the afternoon show cancelled. We were also told that BBC Norfolk will be at a virtual standstill tomorrow, with breakfast show, online content and many other features and functions cancelled all together.

Stan Cullen Grant

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