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Threat to Independent staff over ballot condemned by NUJ

29 July 2013

Independent staff have been issued with veiled threats over the future of the titles if they vote yes in the NUJ's industrial action ballot.

In an email to staff, the paper's editor Amol Rajan said:

"A 'Yes' vote will give him [Evgeny Lebedev, the paper's owner] very little confidence that we are prepared to steer the Independent print brands on a course that can lead them to safety and sustainability. This could be catastrophic for the titles.

"A 'No' vote on the other hand will be seen as a genuine commitment to securing the Independent print brands as a credible and valued part of a wider dynamic and influential media company. I'm sure the owner would respond positively to this."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"It's a poor show when management at the Independent resort to issuing threats to staff who are exercising their legal right to take part in a ballot – journalists who simply want to be listened to about their livelihoods and the future of the titles they work for.

"Members will make their own mind up about whether this has been a meaningful consultation process to date. We will be advising any journalist who comes under improper pressure to raise it with the union immediately.

"The union is shocked at the Independent's approach and the disgraceful way management has treated staff and contributors. It is not just the lip-service they have shown to the consultation, but the callous disregard they are showing to long-standing and loyal columnists and journalists.

"This email shows exactly why journalists have to stick together and vote yes, to stop compulsory redundancies and to defend quality journalism."

Lebedev has backed his management on the 27 redundancies at the paper, despite a plea from his staff.

The NUJ chapel wrote a letter calling for him to intervene:

"With already fewer than half the editorial staff of any other quality national newspaper in Britain, we are deeply worried that the extent of the job losses put before us – which threaten to tear the heart out of the writing staff – will be a tipping point."

No written response has been given, but management told chapel representatives that Lebedev "has said that he believed that the discussions that are taking place are absolutely right and he has confidence in the discussions. He would like these discussions to continue. He is supportive of everything that has taken place so far".

Ballot papers have been issued and the ballot closes on Friday 2 August.

Laura Davison, NUJ official, said

"Readers need to be aware that job cuts on this scale at the Independent are a game changer. What kind of signal does it send for the future of the paper when around 15 per cent of the journalistic workforce is facing redundancy?

"We urge the proprietor to meet with his journalists to hear their concerns about quality first hand; these are the people who know exactly the consequences of the management's plans."

Tags: , newspapers, independent, cuts, ballot