Bosses fear union revival after Reed £20k wage deal

Brian Gilbert


Publishers of B2B titles are said to be aghast at the recent deal guaranteeing Reed Business Information journalists a £20,000 minimum wage.

Managers are concerned that it could provoke a clamour for union recognition throughout the industry.

Brian Gilbert, chairman of Wilmington Publishing, said: "At the end of the day journalists should be rewarded for their ability to interest their readers and that is reflected in circulation figures and an increase in subscriptions."

Gilbert predicted that, in the long term, the new agreement would result in a repeat of the last time the NUJ was derecognised: "Every single company will eventually do the same again. It’s inevitable."

He added: "It will obviously restrict Reed’s intake and it will lose developing talent. Reed has been put under pressure by the union. At the end of the day it will harm the journalists who involve themselves in that action."

He said there were no plans at Wilmington to negotiate en bloc as the journalists seemed "satisfied" with individual negotiations.

Brin Bucknor, managing director of VNU, believes the agreement could reduce the number of job opportunities offered to young "untested" journalists. 

"What Reed chooses to do must be up to them as a business chasing its own management and staff goals. I do believe that we should pay a fair wage to all our staff. However, in many instances we as business press publishers  give many new and untested journalists the chance to develop skills that they would  find difficult to obtain without publishers ‘taking the risk’," he said. 

"Often, after a year or two these new journalists are poached by other magazines. A minimum guaranteed salary of £20,000 will make it difficult for many companies to take these risks in the future, and they will potentially cut back in staff and quality, the exact opposite of what we need and desire."

Some editors have also expressed concern that pay structuring could prevent talented journalists from being rewarded.

Adrian Barrick, editor of Building, said: "We try to tailor our pay to talent and individual experience. I saw the danger of pay scales in Morgan Grampian when I worked there in the Eighties. People start here on a little less than £20k but if they’re good we move them up as fast as we can."

He added: "I’m not a mean-spirited old editor but people try to poach our journalists and I have to be able to offer them more to make them stay."

However, Rob MacLachlan, publishing director of Centurion, which recognises the NUJ, welcomed the Reed deal. He said: "We as a company wouldn’t regard a minimum wage of £20,000 as being unrealistic given the current environment for recruiting. We feel there is an important role for the NUJ to play in helping to monitor professional standards."

By Mary Stevens and Ruth Addicott

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