Industrial action threatened in Guardian web integration row

Journalists and management at The Guardian are facing a winter of talks to avert industrial action after the NUJ chapel voted to formally start a pay dispute over changes associated with print/web integration plans.

NUJ officials will now meet with management to discuss the 4.8 per cent pay offer, changes to working hours and the possible loss of the current nine-day working fortnight for newspaper staff.

Guardian Unlimited journalists do not have a nine-day fortnight, and there are fears this could become the norm when Guardian Media Group moves to new offices in London’s King’s Cross next year and the print and online operations are more fully integrated.

More than 180 turned out at a chapel meeting last week, about half the chapel. All voted in favour of a motion calling to officially begin a pay dispute. Three people, thought to be department heads, abstained from voting.

The motion read: ‘The chapel instructs its officers to declare a dispute over the management’s attempt to: scrap our existing no compulsory redundancy agreement; lengthen working hours; increase the working week; and make an annual pay settlement and a pensions deal, that was part of last year’s agreement, conditional on acceptance of these changes.

‘The chapel believes this to be the most serious attack on our conditions of employment in a generation. The chapel proposes to invoke our pre-existing disputes procedure, involving a meeting with management and national officials and an early one-day conciliation meeting at ACAS.

‘The chapel further instructs the officers to make preparations for a strike ballot and to call a further mandatory meeting to trigger that ballot in the event of a failure to reach agreement.”

Helene Mulholland, The Guardian’s mother of chapel, said: ‘This is not about Guardian journalists standing in the way of change: more of our members are busier than ever working across different platforms and in new media. The company has all the cooperation and goodwill it needs from NUJ members to enable the move to 24/7 publishing, but it is in danger of squandering those valuable commodities.

‘The chapel meeting delivered a powerful message that people are not willing to sacrifice many of the things that make The Guardian different and worthwhile to work for.”

A spokesman for The Guardian said: ‘We welcome the opportunity to discuss our full proposals with national officers and, if necessary, ACAS. The terms and conditions of Guardian and Observer journalists are as good as any on any British newspaper, if not better – and will continue to be so.”

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