Guardian dispute over as staff take new £30k minimum

Possible industrial action was averted today at the Guardian and Guardian Unlimited after staff voted to accept a new deal on pay and “24/7” working conditions.

A yes vote at a NUJ chapel meeting this afternoon marks the end of six months of negotiations between Guardian News and Media executives and the NUJ chapel.

The deal guarantees a minimum £30,000 wage for staff, a rise of 7.1 per cent, and a 4.8 per cent pay increase for 2007. A two-year, inflation-linked pay deal stretching to 2009 has also been signed.

A new “security of employment” clause commits the company to avoid compulsory redundncies in all but extreme circumstances. It reads: “GNM is committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies. Both parties acknowledge that in extreme circumstances reductions in staffing may be unavoidable. In such circumstances GNM would negotiate any such change with the NUJ”

The NUJ said it would consider strike action if GNM break any terms of the agreement.

NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: ‘Today’s agreement is an infinite improvement on the Guardian’s original proposals. The no-compulsory redundancy clause that management wanted to scrap has instead been extended. New shift patterns that were going to be imposed on journalists will now be voluntary

‘However, our agreement is no blank cheque for The Guardian to do as it pleases as it moves to 24/7 working. If our reviews of implementation show that management has broken commitments made during negotiations, then industrial action will be back on the cards.

‘Our agreement demonstrates that the technological changes taking place in the media sector can be managed without the need to push journalists to work harder and faster with little in return.”

The deal’s signing will see a new clause inserted into journalists’ contracts stating their willingness to work across both print and online. The clause said the ‘independence and integrity’of The Observer and The Guardian would be guaranteed.

Guardian managing editor Chriss Elliot said: “We are very pleased that the Chapel has accepted the offer. This has been a highly complex set of negotiations involving fundamental change to the structures of both papers and our website, and has been achieved without the job losses or threats of industrial action experienced by other media organisations.

“This agreement now paves the way for a successful move towards integrated print and digital publishing around the clock, and our continuing domestic and international expansion.”

The Observer’s NUJ chapel meeting takes place tomorrow and journalists there will also vote on the deal.

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