Recognition deal at Racing Post 'unfair' but legal

Post: almost no BAJ members

“Unsatisfactory, inefficient and unfair” is how an independent mediator has described Trinity Mirror’s union recognition deal with the British Association of Journalists at the Racing Post.

But the Central Arbitration Committee has ruled that, due to a loophole in the law, the BAJ does have the right to represent Post journalists despite having almost no members there.

The NUJ plans to appeal the decision at the European Court under Article 11 of the Human Rights Act, which covers the right to form trade unions.

The row comes as Trinity Mirror is set to institute changes to pay and conditions ahead of the paper’s planned switch to year-round seven-day-a-week publishing from next month.

The dispute began early last summer when news of the extension of Sunday publishing prompted a rise in NUJ membership. In June, with more than half of Trinity Mirror sports division’s 130 journalists in the NUJ, the union met company officials to discuss becoming formally recognised. Shortly afterwards BAJ general secretary Steve Turner approached Trinity Mirror and by 3 July the rival union had concluded a recognition agreement.

The BAJ has represented journalists on Trinity Mirror’s other national titles since 2001, but it has very few members on the Post – confirmed, the CAC said, by the zero attendance at a public meeting held at the paper by Turner.

The CAC, which normally rules on recognition rows, said in a report this week that it has no power to arbitrate on disputes between unions. However, it added: “The startling feature of this case is that the company has chosen to recognise a union which has only an exiguous level of support among the workforce while ignoring the claims of what is probably the majority union.”

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror said: “The company and the BAJ entered into a voluntary agreement which the NUJ challenged through the CAC. We are pleased that the CAC has upheld the validity of this agreement.”

NUJ newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said he was not surprised by the outcome of the CAC hearing and said the union was now considering an appeal to the European Court.

Meanwhile, Trinity Mirror has yet to conclude the terms under which Post staff will switch to year-round sevenday publication. Increased Sunday racing prompted the move.

According to the NUJ, the deal on the table is a one-off, across the board payment for journalists of £3,000 plus 0.25 per cent of annual salary for each Saturday worked.

NUJ officials say they are concerned about the vagueness of promises to take on extra staff and institute a profitshare system, but say they are unable to negotiate a deal because they have no bargaining rights.

The BAJ’s Turner said management wanted to work with one union – the BAJ – for all its journalists and it was easier for one union to develop a “rapport” with Trinity Mirror for the benefit of staff and management. He claimed the BAJ had delivered significant improvements in terms and conditions for journalists at the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People since it was recognised in 2001.

“I’m sure the BAJ will be able to do the same for journalists on the Racing Post and associated titles now the CAC has confirmed that our recognition agreement with MGN is legal.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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