A strike by BBC staff will begin at midday on Thursday amid claims of "institutionalised" bullying and the threat of up to 2,000 job cuts as part of the BBC's Delivering Quality First (DQF) initiative.
Easter schedules are expected to be disrupted by the move. NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: "We know that management is using DQF as a means to harass and bully staff - making worse an already entrenched problem of bullying that has been largely ignored by those in position of power. We hope the forthcoming Respect at Work report will be a positive step forward in tackling a problem that has become institutionalised – but it's hard to believe that there's a real commitment to change when we're seeing cases of people who have been targeted, bullied and unfairly picked off being rushed out of the door.
The NUJ asked staff to come forward with experiences of bullying and harassment and submitted evidence to the BBC's review of policies on the issue. The union claims the programme of job cuts has worsened a "shocking" and "entrenched" problem.
"The moratorium is about making the senior management take a long, hard look at the way the DQF is being carries out and the effect on the wellbeing of BBC staff, working conditions, morale, training the quality of the BBC's output," added NUJ national broadcasting organiser, Sue Harris. "We can't continue with the casualisation of posts, reduction of training and a culture of blaming staff when things go inevitably wrong."
John Plant, a senior associate at international law firm, Taylor Wessing, said the allegations of bullying should be a cause for legal concern for the broadcaster: "The NUJ's allegations regarding 'widespread bullying and harassment' will be of significant concern to the BBC, given the reputational risks associated with bullying and harassment claims and potentially uncapped compensation for harassment under the Equality Act. The alleged perpetrators may also have concerns as claims under the Equality Act could be brought against them personally.
"Beyond this, there appears to remain significant concern on the part of the unions about the lawfulness of potential redundancies," he continued. "If employees are made redundant whose roles are being advertised - or if the BBC were not to be searching for or offering suitable alternative positions to them - their dismissals may be unfair. Unfortunately for the BBC, claims for unfair dismissal for redundancies it makes in the near future will not be limited by new caps on unfair dismissal compensation of 12 months' pay, due to come into effect in the summer."
The potential job losses from the DQF plans would add to the 7,000 jobs lost at the BBC since 2004. The NUJ vote totalled 61.2 per cent in favour of strike action and 79.9 per cent in favour of action short of a strike.
"It is disappointing that once again the BBC has decided not to properly engage, refusing our call for a moratorium to give space for meaningful discussions on the worrying impact of the cuts," said Stanistreet. "The DQF plans remain on the table, regardless of the consequence for workload and stress levels. We need Tony Hall to come in with a big broom to sweet away management complacency and set new priorities."
BBC NUJ members took part in a one-day strike last month over compulsory redundancies, taking Radio 4's Today and Breakfast TV off air. BBC members of the broadcasting union, Bectu, will also take part in the strike.