In this week’s UnionDues episode, we have an in-depth chat with Philippa Childs, head of Bectu – that’s the broadcasting, entertainment, communications and theatre union (potentially useful info for the next pub quiz), a section of Prospect but still very much having its own identity.
It’s been a torrid time, and as we recorded, Bectu’s telecom members were the filling in an indigestible IR sandwich as CWU Openreach members took strike action over some fairly inexplicable senior management proposals.
A manic merry-go round of issues
However, this is just the latest twist of a manic merry-go-round of issues. Philippa explained the ongoing hurt of most of Bectu’s substantial freelance members being excluded from government Covid support schemes has now been ratcheted up by post-Brexit bureaucracy stymieing work opportunities in mainland Europe, describing the row over visas as “a debacle” and pointing to the inevitable drain of cultural talent and capacity that is resulting.
As you would expect, she is passionate about the importance of public service broadcasting in general and the BBC in particular – “Even a sceptic would have to acknowledge that the BBC has stepped up during the crisis….and played a huge important role.”
The question now, though, is “Is anyone listening?” There is an overwhelming argument for public service broadcasting and a recognition that some services are best run as publicly regulated utilities (hight speed broadband, water, gas anyone?) but this is often at odds with the position of government and/or the regulatory apparatus. So, a timely and heartfelt shout out to those making the rational argument for public ownership, like the We Own It campaign group.
The culture of broadcasting, and the media in general, is also very much in Bectu’s sights. “The GoggleBox story is not a one-off by any stretch of the imagination” said Philippa, referring to concerns over embedded inappropriate behaviours at production company Studio Lambert, now being addressed by negotiation.
“Just a little respect…..”
And the lack of respect that those sorts of behaviours represent are often at the intersection of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and other protected characteristics. Not surprising that the union is proud of its work, with other unions and employers to securing charters on dignity at work across the sector, recognising that this is important but still only a stepping stone to inclusivity. “Our activists are really engaged and ambitious for change” says Philippa. (And the link to the GMB event referred to in the podcast is here)
There’s just time to reflect on the merger that brought Bectu and Prospect together – now more than 4 years ago. Philippa is pleased that there has been a recognition of the practical value of the Bectu brand in setting and maintaining standards in the entertainment sector – particularly significant when you consider the potential (inevitable?) challenges of merger processes. (You can hear the story from Prospect’s perspective in this podcast recording with Andrew Pakes last year).
#thought4theweek and #radicalRoundUp
We also have a barnstorming #thought4theweek with Prof. Mel Simms, reflecting this week that having a seat at the table is just as important as what we say when we ‘re sat down at it.
Plus Left Foot Forward’s Josiah Mortimer previews his #RadicalRoundUp – new TUC survey shows BAME workers are hit hardest during the pandemic, a luxury car maker has “gone to ground” owing over £170k to his staff, Unison express fears over staff safety during May’s local and national elections, IKEA wants to keep accreditation as a Living Wage employer without….paying the Living Wage, and the NUJ calls on the Chancellor to support journalism in this week’s budget.
You can access this and all episodes here.
Featured photo credit – Jose Thormann/Unsplash. Podcast music by Scott Holmes. UnionDues is part of the Labor Radio Podcast Network