Union 'shocked' by editor's email to Indy staff warning them against strike action

The National Union of Journalists has said it is “shocked” by the treatment of staff at The Independent after what it claims were threats warning them against going on strike.

Editor Amol Rajan wrote to staff at the paper on Friday urging them not to vote for industrial action over the latest round of job losses to stop proprietor Evgeny Lebedev from making further cuts.

In his email, Rajan said: “A 'Yes' vote will give him [Evgeny Lebedev, the paper's owner] very little confidence that we are prepared to steer the Independent print brands on a course that can lead them to safety and sustainability. This could be catastrophic for the titles.

"A 'No' vote on the other hand will be seen as a genuine commitment to securing the Independent print brands as a credible and valued part of a wider dynamic and influential media company. I'm sure the owner would respond positively to this."

Earlier this month, The Independent announced 27 redundancies across its daily and Sunday print editions, with senior reporter positions expected to be hit hardest.

At a hastily arranged meeting, managing director Andrew Mullins and content director Chris Blackhurst told journalists that the future of the print editions of the paper was under threat if costs were not reduced.

Last week, NUJ members at the paper launched a strike ballot and wrote to Lebedev, calling on him to begin a consultation with staff over the proposed cuts.

But according to the union, Lebedev told its chapel representatives that he backed management over the plans.

Following Rajan’s email, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It's a poor show when management at the Independent resort to issuing threats to staff who are exercising their legal right to take part in a ballot – journalists who simply want to be listened to about their livelihoods and the future of the titles they work for.

"Members will make their own mind up about whether this has been a meaningful consultation process to date. We will be advising any journalist who comes under improper pressure to raise it with the union immediately.

"The union is shocked at the Independent's approach and the disgraceful way management has treated staff and contributors. It is not just the lip-service they have shown to the consultation, but the callous disregard they are showing to long-standing and loyal columnists and journalists.

"This email shows exactly why journalists have to stick together and vote yes, to stop compulsory redundancies and to defend quality journalism."

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