Journalists’ strike solid

A 24 hour strike by BBC journalists in Northern Ireland has been 100% solid on May 19th. Journalists in the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) walked out on one of the busiest news days of the year. The count for local elections taking place.

Thus there was no coverage of the count on BBC radio or television. That was despite the BBC announcing coverage on their schedules.

Management could not find a single scab from over 200 journalists to read the news. Adam Smyth, Director of BBC Northern Ireland, thus read news bulletins himself. He did not say who he was.

The strike is against cuts to services, forced redundancies, and the near-destruction of BBC Radio Foyle in Derry. That has produced a huge reaction in Derry. The NUJ organised a public meeting in the Guildhall (City Hall) in protest. Over 250 attended. There has been huge support from the community, other trade unions, and politicians of all parties.

NUJ members have campaigned strongly, particularly in Derry. There a new chapel (workplace organisation) has been outstanding.

The union has attracted new members. In the week before the strike, 42 new members joined in Belfast. There, too, cuts are threatening journalists. To date, those cuts are not as severe as in Derry. Journalists there know that management will go for them also.

Thus, in the week before the strike, 42 new members joined the union in Belfast.

Because Derry is in the front line of cuts, the picket line at BBC Radio Foyle was very strong. No programmes at all were broadcast from the station. The building was locked.

Non-journalistic staff joined the picket. So did trades unionists from Derry Trades Union Council, UNISON, Unite, the INTO teachers’ union and Irish Writers’ Union. Members of the public came to give support. A leading campaigner against the abuse of children in residential homes came to personally thank the journalists for their coverage of his campaign to expose the abuse. Local small businesses arrived with donations of food, soup and coffees.

Some pickets moved a few yards from Radio Foyle to a corner. That corner is on one of the main roads into Derry City Centre. Passers by honked horns in support.

BBC management is still refusing to move. Journalists will have to take further action.