Telegraph strike ballot set aside after Lewis urges staff to pull back

Telegraph journalists suspended their ballot on strike action after a series of meetings involving editor Will Lewis and editorial executive director Richard Ellis.

NUJ members said today that the ballot has been “set aside” and they are now waiting to see if the management comes good on a promise to hold further negotiations in exchange for a halt to the vote.

The strike ballot was started in protest at changes associated with the scrapping of casuals across the Telegraph titles and the creation of 40 new full-time editorial jobs.

Journalists were unhappy about changes including scrapping the nine-day fortnight which many journalists currently work, including those working nights, in exchange for a £2,000 one-off payment. This has been since increased to £3,000.

Jjournalists are also concerned about the imposition of compulsory weekend working – which could be both days every other weekend for production journalists in sport.

NUJ membership at the Telegraph group currently numbers just over 200 – which is slightly less than half the total editorial staff.

Lewis and Ellis are understood to have held meetings with various editorial departments urging staff to step back from industrial action in recent weeks.

One editorial insider said: ‘The sense was that people desperately wanted a negotiated settlement if at all possible. People were quite scared of taking strike action – there have been all kinds of rumours, like they are going to out-source production forever to PA.”

The insider said that journalists also feared that a strike could be accompanied by summary dismissals – as had been the case when The Times titles moved to Wapping in 1986.

The insider said that the strike ballot could have been avoided if there had been better negotiation over plans to change working conditions.

They said: ‘If management talked properly and behaved as if they actually liked their staff this might not have happened. This is the Telegraph – not the Morning Star.”

Telegraph management declined to comment, but a spokeswoman previously said of the latest strike ballot: ‘It is highly regrettable – and frankly astonishing – that the NUJ is balloting for strike action at a time when the Telegraph is creating 40 new jobs for journalists, even in the middle of a serious economic downturn.’

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