200 NUJ members accept improved deals at Express

 

After intensive negotiation, 200 NUJ members at Express Newspapers in London and 30 in Scotland have voted unanimously to accept new contracts after the company agreed to better conditions.

In addition, the NUJ has secured better redundancy terms in Scotland, where the company could not get the redundancy numbers it wanted and compulsory redundancy was on the cards. That has brought forward more volunteers.

In London, the fact that the company has agreed to four of five demands from the chapel on working conditions and set up a working party to discuss other issues, saw some journalists remove their names at the end of last week from the voluntary redundancy list.

In May, the chapel voted 93 per cent in favour of industrial action and 68 per cent in favour of strike action.

In a meeting at Acas at that stage the company had said "no" to all five requests from the chapel to renegotiate contracts. But interim talks enabled the chapel to discuss new overtures from the company during a one-hour mandatory chapel meeting at 4pm on Tuesday of last week.

The members heard that Express Newspapers was now ready to give full recognition to the NUJ, even for pay bargaining; to offer better contract terms; to extend the period for redundancy indefinitely; and to agree there would be no compulsory redundancy.

The working party, made up of editorial director Paul Ashford and new managing editor Alex Bannister on the management side, and FoCs Ray King (Express) and Steve Usher (Daily Star) and NUJ organiser Jeremy Dear, will have its first meeting this week. It will discuss issues such as working hours, pay, health and safety, a supply of food for those working after 10pm and a shorter working week for night workers.

The chapel has warned that it will reconsider industrial action if these issues are not dealt with satisfactorily.

But it said: "We are very pleased with the outcome. Four out of five of our demands have been met absolutely." It is hopeful that a lot of the issues that create a worse working environment will be sorted out.

From having a poor presence before changes instituted by Richard Desmond, the union now has a "very strong and disciplined presence in the company", said Dear.

Evidence of this was the journalists who have withdrawn their redundancy applications because they feel they now have a voice in the company, he said.

By Jean Morgan

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