Early-bird MEN takes flight as strike spiked

The four faces of the MEN: the paper’s new early-bird edition launched without a hitch after the NUJ chapel decided not to oppose the launch

The Manchester Evening News management warned its journalists it would remove any concessions already promised if they went on strike ahead of the new early-bird edition produced on Monday.

The chapel’s last-minute decision on Friday not to oppose the paper’s new 6am edition meant it launched without teething troubles. It is printed at Oldham on Mirror presses.

The decision-by a narrow majority after fierce debate-followed a letter to individual journalists from the company explaining the reasons why the edition was required; existing print capacity has been reduced as a new press is installed at Trafford Park.

The letter made clear that if industrial action went ahead, the company would take off the table terms already agreed. The hiring of new staff to cover the first edition would not go ahead and all shifts would include all the chapel staff. The meal payment would not be increased and those who did not work a shift for which they were rostered would not be paid.

Profit-related pay could also be affected, the company warned.

It also said it believed the NUJ had breached the disputes procedure by refusing to go to Acas, and pointed out the flexibility it was seeking for evening and Sunday working was already contained in the journalists’ contracts. It insisted on cover for holidays, sickness and emergencies, and while the new staff was being recruited.

FoC Judy Gordon denied the warnings had precipitated the chapel’s change of heart. “Nobody in their right mind wants to go on strike. It was a very close vote and a lot of people just thought the concessions we had dragged out of management, kicking and screaming, meant we could live with what we had got,” she said.

From now on, the MEN will have four editions, re-slugged on the front page to make the timing of each edition clear to buyers.

The journalists had planned industrial action to begin Sunday. The package of management proposals includes: 

The minimum number of journalists currently employed by the paper will have to work late or on Sundays.
Twelve new staff will be taken on to work new shifts -four filling current vacancies and eight replacing journalists who have opted for leaving packages of four weeks pay for every year of service.
Filling vacancies within two months .
Dinner allowance to be increased by £11.37 to £15 for those rostered to work from 7pm on weekdays and 6.30pm on Sundays. This could mean a £75 allowance each week for new staff working late hours every day.

The company and the union will monitor the way new rotas are working and the company will give “careful consideration” to chapel members who are unable to work the shifts because of personal difficulties.

Editor Paul Horrocks said: “I am pleased that we now have agreement.

The new edition is designed to protect the long-term interests of the paper and all those who work for the MEN.

Our journalists realised that industrial action would have damaged the paper and their jobs.”

By Jean Morgan

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