NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran welcomed the “first good news for some time” as BBC Scotland announced plans for increased funding. The BBC Trust has sanctioned plans to extend and improve radio and television services in the nations and regions. This will remove the ongoing threat of more redundancies of NUJ members in the state broadcaster in Scotland.
The new investment will be introduced over the next four years and will create new roles and offer re-deployment opportunities to NUJ and BECTU members. Local management have told the union that they now hope to manage future resources and savings without further redundancies.
Paul said: “This last year has been nothing but doom gloom and disaster for our industry so it is quite a lift to get the first good news for some time. The expansion of radio, tv and web based news and current affairs, as well as a number of new programmes in the pipeline is like a breath of fresh air.
“The announcement of increased political and business reporting can only be good for our democracy. We will now look forward to discussing with BBC Scotland management the details of the opportunities this will throw up for our members.”
The union has written to Tim Blott MD asking for action to deal with major issues affecting the editorial workforce. The letter highlights complaints of bullying, long hours, lack of breaks, staffing shortages and ongoing problems with the system.
Mr Blott was also provided with the latest stress survey results that clearly show dangerously high stress levels across the newsroom. This information has now been forwarded to the head of HSE Scotland.
Among the concerns is the potential abuse of work experience youngsters and the company making it less attractive to staff seeking access to employee counselling services. NUJ assistant organiser Jim McNally believes this is particularly worrying in light of recent case of absences for work related stress. “It beggars belief that at a time when the company are aware of absenteeism on different desks for work related stress then they put obstacles in the way of people getting counselling.
“We have asked for clarification on the change from self-referral to going through desk heads, which is a real disincentive to people who maybe stressed out because of their line manager or decisions being taken by these managers.”
Members have complained to the union about their own hours or of their colleagues scheduled to work 15-hour shifts. Another unbelievable scenario has photographers covering the late picture desk, being asked to go out to cover jobs leaving the desk empty. This is causing major delays for desks trying to access images to get pages away, adding to the problems combining to make a mockery of The Herald deadline.
MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee have called for an action plan by employers to deal with the growing stress problems in newsrooms. The report on the Crisis in the Scottish Press Industry also "notes concerns about the restructuring of newsrooms putting at risk the Scottish Press industry's ability to deliver the high quality of journalism that he public has grown to expect and that is neccessary to properly scrutinise local and regional affairs."
NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran gave evidence to the Westminster based committee, he said: "The MPs have grasped the serious position the industry finds itself and I would reccommend members to watch it online or read the details of the hearings. There are some searching questions and some interesting answers, particularly in relation to workers' rights and perception of delivering quality newspapers.
"For example, one of the Tory MPS Ben Wallace suggested that one of the difficulties facing employers is the burdensome employment laws. He actually sympathised with the bosses for having to spend money on redundancy and notice payments and having to jump through employment law hoops. He obviously hasn't been following the recent disputes at Newsquest and The Record &Sunday Mail where the law and workers' rights were secondary to the priority of cutting jobs. Unfortunately Tim Blott agreed with everything he said which might not surprise our members, and he is being consistent, given that he hired Donald Martin to run his operations. On the other hand Michael Johnston totally stood up for consultation and working with the unions, so that was a bit embarrassing for the employers group."