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New talks at RBI, but ballot continues

17 February 2009

NUJ representatives at Reed Business Information (RBI) are to meet the chief executive next week to discuss their dispute over job cuts and changes to working practices. However, the reps are still urging union members to vote yes for strike action.

Hundreds of journalists at the Surrey-based magazine company have until 26 February to return their secret ballot. The vote came about after RBI chapel meetings voted overwhelmingly in favour of conducting a ballot.

Chapel officers want a resounding "yes" vote to demonstrate the strength of feeling to management.

The dispute is about the merging of production on magazines covering totally different subject areas – leading to compulsory redundancies and loss of work for regular freelances. RBI journalists also fear a drop in editorial standards.

Management at the company's head office in Sutton and satellite offices in central London have reacted to the ballot by briefing against the union at departmental and individual meetings.

Chief executive Mark Kelsey even made a video for staff in which he said he would meet the union. There have already been extensive talks, including at the government conciliation service ACAS.

Patric Cunnane, NUJ father of the RBI chapel, and other chapel officers will meet the CEO on Monday. Patric Cunnane said:

"We have always been ready to talk and I don't want people to have false hopes ahead of Monday's meeting.
"We still need the yes vote both as a bargaining tool and for the chapel to be able to consider all its options."

Under UK law, trades unionists must vote yes in a secret ballot before they can decide on strike action.

Sue Harris, NUJ organiser who deals with magazines, said:

"Our members have been forced into this ballot by a management that has simply refused to consider alternatives to compulsory cuts.
"We know that some people would be willing to accept voluntary redundancy, which would then open up the chance of redeployment to those facing the axe, yet the company has pushed ahead with forcing people out of the door.
"If organisations like the BBC or EMAP can manage major reorganisations while avoiding compulsory redundancies, why can't RBI do the same?
"Management needs to come back to the negotiating table for meaningful talks about how we can protect quality journalism at its titles and ensure that RBI staff are fairly treated."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary, said:

"I congratulate NUJ members at RBI for standing up for journalism. The union will give them whatever help and support they need."

Tags: , rbi, cuts, working practices, magazines, ballot, negotiations, sutton, acas, bbc, emap