The BBC is facing the threat of industrial action after sending out compulsory redundancy notices to staff.

Broadcasting unions Bectu, the National Union of Journalists and Amicus last week gave the corporation a four-week deadline to halt compulsory redundancies. But their demand has been ignored and 23 notices were issued last Friday.

The unions are due to meet the BBC tomorrow to discuss the notices, but are not hopeful management will give ground on the compulsory redundancies.

Should the BBC refuse to withdraw the notices, the unions intend to ballot members at the end of the month about industrial action, which, if voted for, would take place at the beginning of May.

Luke Crawley, the BBC supervisory official for Bectu, said about 85 people were facing compulsory redundancy and that the union was prepared to ballot members about a strike.

"The BBC has had 1,500 volunteers for redundancy in the first year [of director general Mark Thompson's efficiency savings drive] although it only wanted 1,000. So why progress with compulsory redundancies?" Mr Crawley said.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that 23 compulsory redundancy notices were issued to staff "from a variety of divisions and locations", but said none will leave before July 1, as agreed with the unions following last year's Acas talks.

The unions have asked the BBC to defer the cuts to next year, or explain why this cannot be done.

"The BBC recognises that this is a difficult and anxious time for staff, and we will continue to do everything possible to minimise compulsory redundancies and to mitigate the effects on staff of the job losses. However, in order to deliver the efficiencies and savings needed to invest in the future, the BBC cannot agree to defer the redundancies," a statement from the BBC said.

"The BBC will continue to liaise with the unions to address staff concerns. But we also have to address the changes we must make to meet the needs and demands of our audiences in the future and to achieve greater value for money for licence fee payers."

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