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After 92% vote for strike action, FT chapel to send delegation to Tokyo

16 December 2015

In a statement to FT journalists yesterday, the NUJ chapel warned that industrial action could still be necessary in their fight over pensions.

Just three weeks after a 92 per cent yes vote in a ballot for strike action, Steve Bird, NUJ Father of Chapel (FoC), said:

"Chapel members are sincere in their welcome to Nikkei colleagues and hopes for a successful partnership, but the unfinished business with FT executives over the future of our pensions means that we have to be prepared to take action if necessary."

He added that the chapel was seeking funds from union branches and members to send a delegation of union reps to Tokyo to talk to Nikkei executives.

The prospect of the day of the takeover being marred by industrial action was averted after a last-ditch offer by management of an extra £4m to "match" the previous year’s pension budget. On the day, Steve Bird publicly welcomed Tsuneo Kita, Nikkei chairman, at a newsroom meeting.

Steve Bird added yesterday:

"Given Nikkei's statement to the press that they have not sought cuts to FT benefits, we hope to persuade them that promises made to preserve our pensions ought to be honoured."

Described as a "£4m pensions robbery", the closure of the company’s final pay pension scheme is seen as a betrayal of promises made by FT managers. On the day the Nikkei takeover was announced in July, John Ridding, FT CEO, singled out pensions when he promised staff that he would "do the right thing". This was followed by a commitment by HR in an online Q and A to "fair and equivalent" terms.

Steve Bird said yesterday:

"Within two months it has become clear that doing 'the right thing' applied to the company's financial needs, not to staff. The FT sought to cut ill health pensions, put all pension risk onto employees and save £5m a year by forcing staff to accept a new pension scheme with barely three months of consultation. Defined contribution scheme members and all staff overseas were not even offered a formal consultation. All of this was justified in the interests of "harmonising" benefits and citing "market standards".

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"FT staff are the biggest asset the company has and investment plans should reflect this. A strategy which aims to grow the business on the back of cut price staff pensions is a strategy doomed to fail. Nikkei has already distanced itself from such a move. We now hope to persuade the new owners and FT management of the benefits of genuinely considering alternatives to the current proposals which will mean that rather than risk greater distrust and discord, they take staff with them positively into this new era."

The chapel has criticised management attempts to minimise the scale of the cuts by saying that the biggest losses only affect a minority. According to figures from HR, this minority actually constitutes 30 per cent of the FT’s 571 editorial staff.

The FT chapel will discuss the state of the negotiations and any next steps at its next chapel meeting on Wednesday 13 January 2016.

Tags: , pensions, newspapers, chapels, ballot, ifj, japan, nikkei