Johnston Press agree to improve relations with NUJ
12 November 2008
The NUJ has reached a formal agreement with Johnston Press to improve relations between the company and the union. Discussions with senior management have resulted in new commitments to improve dialogue at all levels between the company and the NUJ and to seek to avoid redundancies as the company restructures its operations.
A series of meetings and correspondence between Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, and Tim Bowdler, Johnston Press chief executive, have resulted in a framework through which managers will work more closely with the union.
The framework includes greater involvement of the NUJ in considering restructuring plans and in establishing a process that can help avoid any move to compulsory redundancies. It has also been agreed that any restructuring plans will involve a commitment to carry out risk assessments to ensure there are sufficient resources to avoid excessive additional workloads for staff who remain.
The union had been consulting members about the possibility of going into formal disputes across the company over cuts and low levels of editorial investment. However, NUJ reps have now decided to hold back on doing so to see if the new arrangements will be able to address NUJ members' concerns.
Jeremy Dear said:
"We welcome the progress that has been made in recent weeks to establish a more constructive working relationship with Johnston Press. As ever, the proof of any agreement will be in how it is implemented and our members will be keeping a careful eye on managers at a local level to ensure they abide by these new commitments.
"There remains a great deal of concern at some of the decisions that are being made, their impact on jobs, workloads and conditions and their implication for the future."
The agreement comes on the day Johnston Press announced a fall in advertising revenue as a result of the current economic downturn. However, Tim Bowdler has stated that it remains "a strong, profitable, cash-rich business."
The union is highlighting the importance of investing in quality journalism to ensure the business can weather the economic turbulence.
Jeremy Dear said:
"We recognise that some major changes are taking place within our industry, but you're not going to save the regional press by cutting it back to ever smaller numbers. After years of taking massive profits out of their businesses, it's time for media companies to show their commitment by investing in the journalism needed to ensure they can survive the economic downturn and prosper in the future."
Union reps have also announced plans to run a survey of Johnston Press members to assess the level of stress faced by journalists on the company's titles. They want to ascertain the degree to which cutbacks already made are posing a risk to people's health and safety.
Speaking about the survey, Jeremy Dear said:
"Johnston press has a duty of care to its employees. We must ensure that stress levels aren't endangering our members' health and wellbeing."