Midlands newspaper group journalists vote for strike action

  • 07 Aug 2020

The NUJ chapel at Bullivant Media Limited are set to take action following a "flawed" compulsory redundancy plan that allegedly targets leading union members.

Journalists at a Midlands newspaper group t

The NUJ chapel at Bullivant Media Limited, formed in June with unanimous membership among editorial staff, voted to go-ahead with a series of strike actions, following a 100 per cent mandate from last month's ballot.

The dispute is over previous unauthorised deductions of salaries, compulsory redundancies and recently imposed working practices.

This includes non-editorial staff from the Bullivant family taking over many editorial functions, despite a unanimous chapel no confidence vote concerning the impact this has had on professional journalists' standards.

The chapel said the company this week informed five of the 18 members of editorial staff they faced compulsory redundancy within days, without seeking volunteers, informing all editorial staff of restructure proposals or any selection criteria.

The chapel said staff who would remain have been left in the dark about future arrangements for the company's nine titles, despite concerns about already unsafe workloads.

Photographer roles would be wiped out.

Titles include the Coventry Observer, Leamington Observer, Rugby Observer, Stratford Observer, Solihull Observer, Redditch Standard, Bromsgrove Standard, Worcester Observer and Evesham Observer.

In total, around 15 staff across departments face losing their jobs from a workforce of more than 60, with the company blaming the Covid-19 pandemic. The NUJ chapel believes more job losses could follow with some journalists on the government's furlough scheme, set to end in October.

Bullivant Media Limited NUJ Chapel last night voted for strike action later this month on dates yet to be confirmed – with potentially more to follow.

The chapel said:

"The redundancy proposals appear to be a flawed attempt at strike-busting and demoralising a new NUJ chapel by targeting its more active and leading members. Members' reasonable demands are to be paid what they are owed in future, and to be properly consulted on fair and transparent restructuring proposals which seek to avoid compulsory redundancies.
"Members who have driven digital audience growth with real journalism in communities, including those facing compulsory redundancy, also oppose uniquely perverse attempts to highjack editorial roles and counter-productively drive down editorial standards.
"Copied and pasted government press releases and content that ought to be marked as advertisement features now routinely masquerade as online news; website hits have correspondingly declined."

Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands senior organiser, said:

"The company's move to force out selected members from the business – and the damage this will do to creating original content – will be fully resisted. The chapel is rock steady in meeting this challenge.
"The chapel is also united in members' desire to protect quality journalism from dodgy digital working practices and unprofessional meddling in the editorial process. The company needs to know that the chapel is in no mood to let these serious matters pass."

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