Maitlis and Paxman ask BBC staff not to strike
More than 30 BBC ‘big hitters’ sign letter asking workers to call off strike during Tory conference
Many of the BBC's top presenters and political correspondents, including Jeremy Paxman, Emily Maitlis, Nick Robinson and Martha Kearney have spoken out against a planned BBC strike during the Conservative party conference.
In a letter to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) 36 'big hitters' have written to colleagues to say they have "serious concerns" about holding a 48-hour industrial strike planned for next week.
NUJ journalists at the BBC plan to strike on October 5 and 6 in protest against proposed cuts to the Corporation's pension scheme. The strike clashes with the Tory party conference, including the day that Prime Minister David Cameron will make his keynote speech.
A second 48-hour stoppage is scheduled to start on October 19. This would hit the BBC's coverage of George Osborne's spending review announcement.
The three-dozen signatories, who also include TV and radio journalists such as Today presenter James Naughtie and BBC News chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, have warned that the action risks making the BBC look "unduly partisan".
The letter said: "Impartiality is the watchword for the BBC's political coverage and we would not wish to give a misleading impression that this is no longer something we value highly."
Those who signed the letter have been at pains to point out that they do not disagree with the principle of strike action. Many of the political correspondents have been unable to attend meetings about the proposed strike because they were working at other party conferences.
One signatory told the Guardian: "The idea was to see if it was possible to have a rethink on the dates... If it was Strictly Come Dancing on one date and a political date on the other, it might be fairer."
The letter has prompted a furious response from Ian Pollock, the chair of the NUJ's BBC London branch. "Not one NUJ member anywhere, to my knowledge, has suggested we target the Tories 'because we don't like them'. They simply happen to be the first in line of any number of high profile broadcasting events."
He also claimed that 11 of the three dozen signatories "do not appear" to be members of the journalists' union. ·
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