Journalists at the Northcliffe-owned South Wales Evening Post have been refused workplace union recognition by the paper’s management but are set to take their case to the Central Arbitration Committee.
NUJ members have been requesting voluntary recognition from the Northcliffe-owned paper for several weeks but are taking their claim to the CAC, ahead of an official staff ballot, after the company rejected this week.
The deal also includes weekly Carmarthen Journal, Llanelli Star, Swansea Herald, Neath & Port Talbot Courier and Carmarthen Herald.
The NUJ claims that its 47 members comprise 60 per cent of the ‘bargaining unit’of editorial staff covered by any recognition deal. But Northcliffe has disputed the union’s proposed bargaining unit, saying it should include freelances.
A CAC hearing could settle the size of the unit and lead to a workplace ballot. The union’s request said the house agreement should cover all ‘reporters, feature writers, newsdesk staff, sub-editors, sports desk staff, multimedia journalists and photographers’working in the paper’s Swansea HQ or its Llanelli and Carmarthen offices.
The chapel claims to have doubled its membership in the past year from 23 to 47. It has been circulating letters to staff asking for their support and has organised a series of meetings, one with NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.
Lawrence Shaw, NUJ assistant organiser for Wales, said the chapel was confident that it would be able to ballot for recognition whatever the outcome of any CAC hearing.
‘The information the company has sent [to CAC] is deliberately sketchy so as to prolong the process. But nothing would please us more than if we were to sit down with them and [arbitration service] Acas and reach a deal. Unfortunately, I think they are going to fight us whatever we say.”
The management at parent company South West Wales Media have hit back with a series of letters to staff claiming that the NUJ did not speak for the entire newsroom.
Editor-in-chief Spencer Feeney said the chapel was wrong to say in a leaflet that the NUJ chapel at the Bristol Evening Post negotiated ‘above-inflation’increases – he said the BEP chapel received a 2.5 per cent increase after ‘seven fruitless months of negotiations”.
He said the union claim to represent the majority of the workplace was ‘exaggerated’and questioned its involvement in negotiating a higher mileage claim rate.
In another letter, assistant editor Cathy Duncan denied the union’s claim that it was responsible for negotiating a recent settlement on Sunday working.
Staff were said to have been angered by an internal memo by Feeney from August last year, seen by Press Gazette, that outlined new sick pay arrangements for staff limiting sick pay to three periods of leave in a 12-month period.
South West Wales Media was unavailable for comment.