Buzzfeed UK staff win right to postal vote over union recognition amid fears management's 'antagonistic attitude' would deter voters at office

Buzzfeed UK staff will vote over whether the National Union of Journalists should be recognised for collective bargaining on behalf of staff.

Staff at the news website have fought for a year for union recognition after chief executive Jonah Peretti resisted the move.

The NUJ has successfully argued for Buzzfeed UK staff to be able to vote in a postal ballot instead of in their London office.

The union cited fears that the “antagonistic attitude of management to recognition” would mean workers would be less likely to participate in a workplace ballot, according to a Central Arbitration Committee decision.

It said its Buzzfeed UK chapel members wanted a postal ballot because there was a perception that “being seen to participate in the ballot, were it to be held in the workplace, could be interpreted by management as an indication of being in favour of recognition”.

Buzzfeed management said there would be “no risk of unfairness and/or malpractice” in a ballot taking place at the office.

The CAC said it was possible that a “relatively small” number of votes could be the difference in favour of or against recognition.

It will shortly notify parties of the period within which the ballot should be held.

AN NUJ spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The decision means there will be a postal vote rather than a workplace vote on a single day. The NUJ argued for this as it means that people who might be out of the newsroom on any given day at short notice will still be able to take part.

“The CAC is restricted to making a decision on the options available within the current legislation. Its baffling in this day and age that this doesn’t include the option of electronic voting.”

Buzzfeed took the first step towards union recognition in November 2016, when a letter sent to editor-in-chief Janine Gibson from the NUJ outlined a request for collective bargaining purposes for staff.

The move prompted chief executive Jonah Peretti to write to Buzzfeed staff saying: “In the past, I’ve said I don’t think a union is in the best interests of BuzzFeed or our employees.

“Unions represent employees around a rigid skillset that doesn’t reflect the fluid and flexible way we work, they introduce an extra layer of bureaucracy and process, and they unnecessarily divide our teams, limiting the many benefits of everyone being part of a venture backed tech company.

“Some outside activists have criticized my motives or my character but I want all of you to know that my top two priorities are serving 1) the public, and 2) the people who work at BuzzFeed.”

Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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