Reed Business Information journalists in strike ballot

Journalists at B2B magazine publisher Reed Business Information are balloting for strike action in an attempt to “defend journalistic standards”.

It is the first time industrial action has been proposed at RBI since the National Union of Journalists – which claims 215 members there – won recognition in 2000.

But the company has warned: “No one comes out of strike action a winner.”

As Press Gazette reported last month, RBI is cutting 35 jobs – with five redundancies in editorial.

Of those, three were at Flight International and ICIS, the chemical business magazine, due to RBI merging their production desks.

Elsewhere, one production journalist and one features writer at Travel Weekly have left, but have offers of freelance work with RBI – secured by the NUJ chapel at a meeting with Acas, the arbitration service, in January.

The final redundancy, at construction business magazine Contract Journal, was saved when the journalist was offered a similar role.

But the NUJ chapel has said it is unhappy at both the redundancies, and the merging of production desks – particularly as the desks are unrelated.

As well as Flight International and ICIS merging, RBI has combined Contract Journal’s production team with Technology Group.

The ballot for strike action opened last week, and will close on 26 February.

A statement from the chapel said: “We deeply regret that the intransigence of management has left us no other choice to ballot our members for a yes vote.

“Our current dispute began in October last year when the company announced the merger of four unrelated editorial production.

“At the outset the proposal included naming two individuals in Flight for redundancy, thus making the selection process potentially unfair. Those named had no opportunity to make a case for their suitability to work in the slimmed down department.

“The Contract Journal and Technology merger threatens to squeeze out jobs currently held by freelances; to downgrade the status of experienced journalists and to generally increase workload across the team.

“What both proposed mergers have in common is that the titles are not in similar markets and require sub editors to dilute their specialist knowledge.”

The statement said the chapel had found volunteers willing to leave Flight International, rather than the two journalists named, and had identified efficiencies that saved production desks from merging.

In a statement to staff, RBI said the cuts were prompted by “severe revenue declines and a need to protect magazines from going into loss”.

It concluded: “No one comes out of strike action as a winner – it damages our magazines and our customers, costs both sides money and puts teams in conflict with each other.

“Strike action will put us under more commercial pressure and the only winner is our competitors.”

Meanwhile, RBI parent company Reed Elsevier today announced it had secured a new $2bn financing package, in partnership with 19 banks, to start next year and mature in 2012.

Its current $3bn facility matures next year.

In December, the proposed sale of RBI by Reed Elsevier was postponed.

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