Iconic plea for Irish government support must be matched by respect for union rights

  • 05 Feb 2021

The NUJ's Irish secretary has called on Iconic Newspapers to match its call for Irish government support with a change in its own attitude towards trade union recognition.

Last week, editors of the company's regional titles published a letter to their respective readers calling for support of the newspaper print sector.

This was a call already made by the NUJ in May 2020 as part of the union's News Recovery Plan. The call was also repeated in the union's submission to the Future of Broadcasting Commission.

The NUJ responded in a letter to the editors as follows:

Dear Editor,

The National Union of Journalists shares the concerns in your note, "Message from the Editor" published last week about the current difficulties faced by the regional newspaper sector but with some qualifications.

In our policy document published last May "From health crisis to good news – a recovery plan for the news industry in Ireland", we advocate government support for editorial investment in public interest journalism.

Now is a good time to reimagine the role of local journalism.

There has been a growing awareness of the need for authoritative public interest journalism, provided not just by our public service broadcasters but by privately owned media.

There is an urgent need for a reimagining of the state's role in facilitating a diverse, vibrant, and independent media, in enabling public interest journalism and in looking at imaginative solutions to securing employment in the industry.

That means bold polices, including specific measures to protect the regional press and specialist publications, across all platforms. Targeted measures aimed at supporting jobs and quality journalism, and bolstering independent, diverse, ethically produced content are needed.

In this regard we suggest that tech giants should be taxed to help fund such initiatives. We have suggested a windfall tax of 6 per cent on the tech giants, using the UK digital services tax model, towards funding our News Recovery Plan.

On the issue of state support and tech giants we find ourselves on the same page.

So far, so much common ground.

We further agree that these are challenging times for everyone. This however is where the commonality appears to end.

Our members are not "understanding" of the imposition of layoffs or reduced hours and why it is they have not been afforded the opportunity to be collectively represented by their union.

We would welcome the opportunity to engage with Iconic Newspapers to work together with the NUJ to protect local news and the members on whom the industry depends.

It is a cornerstone of our News Recovery Plan that public money should not be made available for privately owned firms making compulsory redundancies, cutting pay, giving executive bonuses, or blocking trade union organisation.

The NUJ has sought a meeting with your publisher to discuss our concerns and awaits a response.

We have much to talk about.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary

The union's Irish organiser, Ian McGuinness, has written to publisher Malcolm Denmark seeking a meeting to discuss the layoffs and reduced working hours in Iconic and has received no response.

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