NUJ claims Johnston Press has failed to consult staff over buyout

By Sarah Lagan

Union officials claim that regional newspaper giant Johnston Press
has failed to consult properly with staff over its acquisition of
Leinster Leader group and Local Press Ltd.

The NUJ is writing to Johnston Press to advise the company it is
obliged to consult with respective employers’ representatives before
the legal transfer has taken place.

This is stipulated under
section 8 of the European Communities Transfer of Undertakings
Regulations Act 2003 which says employees’ representatives should be
told of the proposed date of transfer, the reasons for transfer and
legal implications.

However, Johnston chief executive Tim Bowdler
maintains the company is acting within the law and he told Press
Gazette he has not received any correspondence from the NUJ on the
matter.

He said: “This is not a transfer of undertaking we are
acquiring the Leinster Leader Group through a share purchase agreement
so the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations do not apply. The second
thing to say is we don’t own the business yet.

We have never presumed the outcome of regulatory enquiry I don’t think that is the right way to operate.

“Once
we complete we immediately go to the businesses and meet the management
and staff just as we did with Score Press and any other acquisition I
have ever made in my recollection.”

NUJ Irish organiser Des Fagan
said: “I am surprised at what Johnston Press is saying and I still
believe that as far as the NUJ is concerned they should have contacted
us before the legal transfer has taken place. We will be looking to
secure our rights under Irish legislation.”

A story in the
Limerick Post, a rival title to the Limerick Leader (which is part of
the Leinster Leader Group)n claimed that staff on the Limerick Leader
had voiced concerns over the way the deal was being handled.

The
Post claimed: “Sources within the Limerick Leader say that they expect
new management structures to be introduced and they say they have
learned from staff in other newspapers owned by Johnston Press, that
the first announcement usually made by them is that wages are to be
frozen for at least 12 months. It is also being considered that the
company may set up a central accounts base rather than keep individual
accounts departments in each paper.”

Bowdler countered: “The
LimerickPost is a competing publication and I think you can take it
that they are reporting from that perspective.

“To print that the
first announcement we make is that wages will be frozen for at least 12
months is utterly wrong and completely misleading. It is not the way we
operate and at thevery least is mischief-making intent.”

The £158.9m deal is expected to be completed in the first half of November subject to approval from the regulators.

Titles
involved in the deal include Belfast News Letter and Derry Journal in
Northern Ireland and the Leinster Leader south of the border.

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