Midlands newspaper journalists set to strike
NUJ members are set to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.
NUJ members working for Bullivant Media Limited are set to take strike action on Tuesday and Wednesday in response to the company's redundancy plans and after months of only part of the journalists' wages being paid.
The company runs weekly free newspapers and websites with titles including the Coventry Observer, Leamington Observer, Rugby Observer, Stratford Observer, Solihull Observer, Redditch Standard, Bromsgrove Standard, Worcester Observer and Evesham Observer.
The Bullivant Media NUJ chapel said:
"Strike action is a last resort and we continue to invite the company to respond to our reasonable demands for fair pay and decent working practices.
"Working non-furloughed staff, many already on the breadline, have had to consider going to foodbanks after getting to the end of each month and discovering there is no salary in their bank accounts, or there has been a 50 per cent deduction from their wages."
Acas talks between the NUJ and Bullivant Media Limited ended on 21 August without the sides reaching agreement. There are no further Acas talks planned, but Acas remain available.
On Friday afternoon the company confirmed they were going ahead with cutting three editorial jobs – two volunteers and one compulsory redundancy. Initially, the company put five jobs at risk, but negotiations with the NUJ has reduced this number to three – two volunteers and one strongly contested compulsory redundancy.
The NUJ chapel at Bullivant Media Limited was formed earlier this year and includes every member of the editorial team. The chapel voted unanimously in favour of industrial action and will strike on 25/26 August and 1/2 September.
The dispute focuses on allegations of unauthorised deductions from wages, plans for targeted compulsory redundancies and detrimental working practices – non-editorial staff have taken on editorial work and there are plans to cut professional photography. NUJ members believe these changes will have a negative impact on journalistic quality and standards.
The Bullivant Media NUJ chapel added:
"We understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and the media industry, but staff have been left in the dark and out of pocket. At the same time the company has demanded more journalistic output in an attempt to address its cash flow issues and deficits – staff have gone without annual leave and there are health and safety concerns with a small, hard working team being pushed beyond their limit.
"We believe the redundancy proposals have been used as an attempt to derail the strike and demoralise the chapel – it is further alleged the company are targeting the active and leading members of our union.
"All we are asking for is that journalists are paid what they are owed in future, and staff should be properly consulted on the restructuring proposals. We also want the company to agree to avoid compulsory redundancies.
"We are asking everyone who cares about local quality journalism to support our strike and help us to convince the company they need to change their approach."
The union remains concerned that more job losses could follow when the government's furlough scheme ends in October.