Back BuzzFeed NUJ recognition
19 June 2018
Ballot papers will today be posted out to a group of staff at BuzzFeed in a vote for NUJ recognition.
The NUJ chapel first asked their management to recognise them in the autumn of 2016.
More than eighteen months later after swingeing redundancies and a lengthy, statutory process, staff working in the News and Buzz sections will be asked to confirm they want the NUJ to represent them.
National Organiser Laura Davison said: “It’s been a tough time for our members at BuzzFeed but we are 100% behind them as they cast their votes for recognition.”
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet has written a special piece about standing up for journalism, having a collective voice at work and why staff at BuzzFeed should vote YES.
Michelle said “The world will not cave in when BuzzFeed editorial staff vote for NUJ recognition. It will be a move that will improve staff relations with management, and produce results that collectively benefit workers. No-one has ever regretted giving themselves a greater say in their working life. You won’t find an NUJ member who believes securing recognition in their workplace was a bad move, because they’ve seen what it has delivered in practice.”
The union has been receiving messages of support backing the BuzzFeed voters. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to add yours and we will share them with our members.
The vote opens on 19th June and closes at midday on the 6th July. The ballot is being organised and run by Electoral Reform Services.
Open letter from Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary
It would be no surprise if after such a torturously long and bureaucratic journey to deciding upon trade union recognition at BuzzFeed, some editorial staff have forgotten why they embarked so enthusiastically upon this process in the first place.
One of the problems of the statutory processes is that companies unwilling to enter into a voluntary recognition agreement can force trade unions through what can seem an interminable legal cul-de-sac designed to deter all but the most dogged of journalists and trade union activists. Fortunately NUJ members at BuzzFeed tick both of those boxes and have stuck with the process, committed to doing their bit to ensure they and their colleagues have a proper, independent voice at work.
So it’s probably worth a moment to remember why getting trade union recognition matters.
The NUJ is the voice for journalists and journalism throughout the UK and Ireland – with over 30,000 members working in all parts of the industry. Having a recognition agreement is the way members can collectively deploy that voice at work.
And who wouldn’t want a say over their working life? Just like workplaces across the media industry, there’s certainly no shortage of issues at BuzzFeed that journalists want to constructively address with the company, to influence positive change and make a difference to their lives at work. The work of an NUJ chapel goes beyond the bread and butter issues of collective pay awards – whether that’s protecting mental health, tackling sexual harassment and securing pay transparency or closing the gender pay gap, ensuring equal pay and tackling stress at work, a recognised chapel is the means to securing more meaningful engagement. Experience at BuzzFeed and beyond demonstrates that a company-led Staff Council lacks the transparency, teeth and genuine independent scrutiny that collective trade union representation provides in spades.
The responses from the BuzzFeed management to date have been predictable and typical – and of course there’s a reason why many organisations would prefer to have a non-unionised, more compliant workforce in their back yard. Dark warnings of “irreversible decisions” that will create “divisions” through the encroachment of “external forces” are fairly well-worn managerial predictions. Some even enter into the absurd, suggesting that unions drive down wages, stifle job opportunities or are only fit for workers on assembly lines.
Companies hostile to trade union recognition – and many organisations are, until they are presented with one and have to get on with the day-to-day job of mutually making collective bargaining work – often talk about union recognition as bringing in an external third party that will meddle and upset its important relationship with staff. Of course that’s daft, because the union is the staff – an NUJ chapel will be the BuzzFeed editorial staff. Decision-making happens within NUJ chapels, in whatever workplace they operate. Yes there’s back up, support, advice and guidance on hand from the union centrally when it’s needed. Yes there’s expertise to draw on to ensure NUJ reps are well trained on anything ranging from representation and negotiation to health and safety matters, and equality and professional training. And yes, there’s legal support to ensure companies fulfil their duties and responsibilities, and the funds to support legal cases for members when they’re necessary.
But there’s also so much more to the NUJ. Together we stand up for issues that matter to us all as journalists. That could be on protection of source cases, challenging the growing surveillance that journalists have faced in the UK, tackling copyright grabs, campaigning against sexual harassment, fighting harassment of journalists online, defending our Code of Conduct, organising to end the gender pay gap, securing an inquiry into the future of local media and action to increase plurality, and standing with our sister unions around the world as part of an international community of journalists, many of whom risk their lives every day to do the jobs they are passionate about. Our collective voice on all of these important issues makes a massive difference and means the NUJ is a union that more than punches above its weight – and our organised chapels are a key part of this work.
Set aside the management hype. The world will not cave in when BuzzFeed editorial staff vote for NUJ recognition. It will be a move that will improve staff relations with management, and produce results that collectively benefit workers. Even the most recalcitrant of managements realise that constructive engagement with their staff unions is a no-brainer. No-one has ever regretted giving themselves a greater say in their working life. You won’t find an NUJ member who believes securing recognition in their workplace was a bad move, because they’ve seen what it has delivered in practice. And it is a move that many digital media workplaces are taking, here and across the pond, so you will definitely be In Good Company. So as you cast your vote in this ballot for trade union recognition at BuzzFeed, vote Yes to secure a real voice at work for you and BuzzFeed journalists of the future.
Messages of Support
To our friends and colleagues at BuzzFeed UK
Congratulations on all the hard work you've done leading up to next week's vote! We're familiar with the kinds of conditions you face in the workplace as we have experienced all of them as well. Now's the time to be bold and come together to ensure that you have the representation you deserve. You have our support and best wishes for your upcoming vote. VICE Canada is behind you all the way.
Your friends at VICE Union, Canada
I support BuzzFeed staff's effort to unionise because autonomy makes for good journalism.
The Al Jazeera English NUJ chapel expresses its strong support for members at BuzzFeed pressing for union recognition. We successfully won recognition in 2013 in the face of management resistance. Since then we have negotiated improvements to terms and conditions including a new redundancy deal and, in the last few weeks, the strength and solidarity of the membership has won all staff a pay rise worth 9% over two years.
Five years on, was the struggle worth it? Hell, yes!
Solidarity Forever - Vote Yes!
Mick Hodgkin, Al Jazeera English NUJ Chapel
All workers should be represented by trade unions and enjoy collective bargaining rights. Otherwise they get picked off by their employers and played against each other. Negotiations over wages and rights should be conducted openly and transparently, to guard against exploitation. This applies to BuzzFeed as much as to any other company. I wish you all strength in achieving formal trade union recognition.
It you want fair treatment at work and your concerns heard you need a union. The NUJ has helped thousands to gain a collective voice at work. Vote Yes for Recognition at BuzzFeed.
Members of the AFP (Agence France-Presse) London office chapel send their support and solidarity to BuzzFeed UK chapel members ahead of their ballot on NUJ recognition. We are in the early stages of growing our own chapel to a size which would allow us to hold such a vote but we hope to do so in the future. We have found the advice and support of the NUJ over the past 18 months played a significant role in helping us to achieve the first universal pay rise for locally employed staff in seven years in February. We would encourage NUJ members and staff at BuzzFeed UK to vote ‘Yes’ for union recognition in their workplace.
Members of the AFP London office NUJ chapel