Redundancy row escalates in Bristol as NUJ seeks more info

By Sarah Lagan Staff at the Evening Post, Bristol, and Western Daily
Press have taken issue with the consultation process being carried out
by Northcliffe Newspapers in the run-up to a possible 36 redundancies
at the papers.

The NUJ has taken legal advice that states
Northcliffe had a legal duty to consult with staff over the
redundancies “in good time and at the earliest opportunity” through a
recognised trade union as soon as it contemplated redundancies.

The company’s Aim Higher strategy was announced in mid-summer and identified the need to cut costs and make savings.

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union’s national organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: “It’s perfectly
reasonable to conclude from that, that they were contemplating

There’s no earthly reason why they couldn’t have commenced some form of dialogue or consultation then.”

the chapel sent questions about the consultation procedure to Bristol
editor-in-chief Mike Norton, he replied in a letter: “The consultancy
process is an open one and all members of staff are able to ask
questions through the formal briefing procedure.” He added: “The union
is not entitled to be consulted in its own right… only as part of the
consultative committee which came into force after the 30-day
consultation period started.”

Derek Brooks, father of chapel at
the Evening Post, said: “The company maintains that it didn’t have to
speak to us until after the 30-day consultation period started on 2
November. We take issue with that.

“We held the first meeting
with management on 14 November; 12 days into the consultancy period.
The reason for that was because there had to be a secret ballot on the
Western Daily Press to elect staff representatives as they are an
unrecognised chapel.”

The chapel also questions Northcliffe’s
commitment to reducing the need for redundancies. The union asked
Northcliffe to disclose all vacancies across the group to avoid
redundancies but claims not to have received the information. An
external member of staff has been appointed at the Western Daily Press,
which existing staff were not aware of.

The union claims Norton
cited the Data Protection Act when it asked for certain details about
employees, which Fitzpatrick described as a “false excuse and frankly
quite ludicrous”. The union says when it asked for details of employees
who were due for retirement, which could reduce the number of
redundancies, the information was not granted.

The NUJ also
claimed the company refused to release details of who works full time
to the union to ascertain who might be at risk. In both cases
Fitzpatrick contests the use of Data Protection, insisting staff could
have been asked their consent for the information to be made public.

The union wants to know the selection criteria for redundancies.

said: “All they have said is that the selection process is about
retention of skills, but frankly no one knows what current methods
exist for recording the skills levels of staff. There seems to be a
very ad hoc appraisals process and there is no indication that it is
ever updated. If they are going to make a selection based on skill
retention, then we want to know just what their current information is
about people’s skill levels so we can dispute or verify the selections.”

Northcliffe spokesman said: “Northcliffe has acted entirely properly
and had made every effort to fully consult its employees at the
earliest possible time.”

A third day of action is planned in Bristol on Tuesday.



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