£2bn BBC technology sell-off to go ahead

Tessa Jowell is poised to give the go-ahead this week for the sale of the BBC's technology unit to Siemens
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
The BBC's £2bn outsourcing of its technology unit to Siemens is set to get the go-ahead from the government this week, despite continued unrest and opposition from staff and the broadcasting union, Bectu.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell finished her consultations last week and government approval is expected to be officially granted later this week.

BBC tech staff have now been told they will be transferred over to Siemens on 1 October once the deal has been rubber-stamped by Jowell. The original handover date of 1 September was delayed following further consultation and contract negotiations.

Siemens and BBC Technology made a number of concessions in August to avert Bectu strike action during the Olympic coverage, but both the union and staff remain unhappy with the outsourcing deal.

A spokesman for Bectu told ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com: "We're opposing it because we think it is bad for the BBC in the medium and short term even though it appears to be good value in the short term if the cost savings are correct. In the medium term it is equivalent to selling the BBC's nervous system to someone who can then sell it back and charge what they like."

On the ground there is also still a lot of anger and resentment. One BBC Technology worker who spoke to silicon.com said the deal has dragged on and that morale is rock bottom among the "massively disgruntled" tech staff. He claimed there were still unanswered questions about whether staff would be moved from London to other locations in the UK in the future once they transferred to Siemens.

The Bectu spokesman said further strike action is extremely unlikely but added: "Even if the deal gets approval there is a seriously pissed off workforce."

A spokeswoman for BBC Technology said the deal is still on track to complete and handover at the end of the month and that all affected staff will have their terms and conditions underwritten for three years.

When asked about guarantees that staff will not be moved out of west London she said: "Until the contracts have been signed we won't know that kind of detail."

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