Unions have warned the BBC that strike action is inevitable unless they halt the mass redundancy aspect of yesterday's restructuring plans.

Broadcasting union Bectu said it will launch an industrial action ballot if the corporation does not enter negotiations before 12:00 BST today.

"The BBC must honour its agreements with the joint unions or face the fact of an immediate industrial action ballot," the union's assistant general secretary Luke Crawley said following the joint ultimatum from Bectu, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Unite.

"It is unacceptable to trawl for volunteers without agreeing a national framework covering the treatment of staff facing redundancy."

On Thursday the BBC unveiled plans for a "smaller but fitter" corporation that will see almost 2,000 jobs cut and a reduction in original programming.

Director general Mark Thompson told staff that every department of the BBC would be required to make efficiency savings under the six-year plan.

The "radical" blueprint, approved earlier this week by the BBC Trust, says that a net amount of 1,800 positions will be closed by 2013, mostly in news and factual areas.

There will also be a ten per cent reduction in the amount of original programmes, despite the BBC pledging to cut down on primetime repeats.

And the iconic BBC Television Centre is also due to be sold off to help address the £2 billion shortfall that emerged after the licence fee settlement was renegotiated by the government.

"Media is transforming," Mr Thompson told staff. "Audiences are transforming. It would be easy to say that the sheer pace of this revolution is too fast for the BBC.

"I think we can see both here and around the world the price you pay for taking what looks like the safe option.

"I've devoted almost my whole working life to the BBC, much of that not as a suit but as a rank-and-file programme-maker. I love the BBC and what it stands for. I care too much to see it drift steadily into irrelevance."

Mr Thompson also revealed plans to merge the corporation's disparate newsrooms into a "world-class" multimedia centre.

In conclusion he added that his plan would create "a smaller BBC, but one which packs a bigger punch because it is more focused on quality and the content that really makes a difference to audiences".

19/10/2007 10:57:44