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NUJ launches fresh attempt to win over DC Thomson workers

NUJ DC Thomson advertising van

NUJ DC Thomson advertising van  -  © Euan Williamson

8 July 2010

The NUJ has stepped up its campaign to recruit journalists working for Dundee-based newspaper and magazine publishers D C Thomson. The latest aspect of the campaign was a strategically parked advertising van promoting the union's services.

The advertising trailer with the NUJ message emblazoned across it is now parked opposite the company premises in Kingsway East, Dundee, following a photo shoot outside D C Thomson's city centre offices. It is the latest stage in the NUJ's drive to highlight the benefits of union membership to employees of a company previously renowned for its anti-union stance.

The NUJ is also holding an open meeting for Sunday Post journalists at the union's offices this Thursday evening.

D C Thomson employs a total of around 2,000 people in its newspaper and magazine publishing empire, which includes the Dundee Courier, Evening Telegraph, Sunday Post, The Beano, the Dandy, People's Friend, Scot Magazine, and many more children's comics and magazines.

Characters such as The Broons, Oor Wullie, Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx, are immediately linked with the company. It also owns Aberdeen Journals, publisher of the Press and Journal and Evening Express.

While union membership was never a priority when the family-run business adopted a paternalistic approach to its employees, rewarding them well for their good service and loyalty, that paternalism has ended with a series of hammer blows to the workers in quick succession, which have left the workforce reeling.

Earlier this year, the company announced a "Reward" project to staff, which meant an increase in the working week with no increase in pay, a pay freeze, and a possible cut in pay in the next three years for those considered to be paid too highly.

An estimated 20 per cent of the workforce could face a pay cut of up to 25 per cent.

On top of that, last month the company summoned all employees to simultaneous meetings across the country to advise that 350 print workers were at risk of redundancy as a result of the proposed closure of a printing plant in Dundee. This has had a drastic impact on staff morale.

These proposals come hard on the heels of a new absence management regime, which imposes disciplinary sanctions on employees who have the misfortune to be sick too often or for too long. As well as being placed on a warning, they are banned from receiving paid sick leave in the event of any further absence while there is a live warning on their record.

Now journalists are turning to the NUJ. For many, it's, the first time they have even considered joining a trade union.

The NUJ is not formally recognised by D C Thomson, but an important milestone was met recently when Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser, was allowed in to represent an NUJ member at a meeting with management.

Since then, NUJ officials have represented a number of members on an individual basis at grievance, disciplinary and appeal hearings before management.

Paul Holleran said:

"This, in turn, has led to other journalists joining. Membership among D C Thomson editorial staff has increased dramatically in recent months. As a result, we have been holding a series of NUJ branch meetings in Dundee, especially for D C Thomson employees, and are arranging similar meetings in Glasgow for Sunday Post employees.
"Already, the website launched by the Dundee branch is receiving over 130 hits a day, and notched over 4,000 hits during the month of June."

Paul Holleran added:

'It may be a mere coincidence that the increase in membership is connected with the arrival of Donald Martin as editor of the Sunday Post. Then again, it may not. Whatever the reason, journalists should be fully aware that it is more important than ever to belong to a trade union.
"That need will continue to increase as cutbacks in pay, conditions and the numbers of journalists continue at an unprecedented rate."

The new Sunday Post editor, previously editor-in-chief of Newsquest titles the Glasgow Evening Times, the Herald and the Sunday Herald, recently announced to staff his proposals for restructuring their working week, which again includes increasing hours with no pay rise.

He is also proposing to end overtime and reduce casual shifts and the rates paid for them, which he claims are substantially above current market rates. He wants to make the Sunday Post a "self-contained production unit".

Tags: , dc thomson, magazines, newspapers, cuts, dundee branch, dundee, dundee courier, evening telegraph, sunday post, beano, dandy, people's friend, scot magazine, the press and journal, evening express