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Vice UK staff launch second union recognition bid three years after failed attempt

Journalists at Vice UK have launched a bid for formal union recognition, three years after a previous attempt was rejected by management.

Editorial, production and post-production staff announced their intentions this morning after several months of organising and building a “strong and active” union chapel with the National Union of Journalists, staff said.

Vice UK has said it is “open to engaging with the NUJ to try to establish a constructive relationship” in the UK, following in the footsteps of the US and Canada.

The bid comes two months after Vice Media revealed plans to cut 10 per cent of its staff globally, resulting in up to 250 job losses.

Press Gazette understands no editorial roles were lost in the UK, where only a small percentage of staff was affected.

A statement from the Vice UK Chapel today said it has majority support in all three departments involved in its foundation, and that it will petition management for formal recognition.

“Many of us were drawn to work at Vice because of the company’s outspoken and long-standing commitment to innovative journalism, truth-telling, and social justice,” they said.

“Vice is a company that prides itself on being youth-focused, and supporting the issues facing many marginalised groups today.

“We are determined to uphold the progressive values that Vice embodies, and believe everything that we stand for as a union is in line with these commitments.”

Key issues staff hope to address by unionising include the fair management of redundancy processes, pay equity and transparency, and “problems that still persist” surrounding diversity and representation.

Last April Vice UK revealed it has a median gender pay gap of 13 per cent favouring men. It disclosed the figure despite the fact that it is too small to be required to do so by law.

And in January 2018, Vice UK workers claimed sexual harassment and “conscious and unconscious prejudice” had overshadowed some female staff’s future in journalism and damaged their confidence.

Vice staffers said today: “We also wish to use our union chapel to advocate for industry-leading practices when it comes to the management of our freelance workforce, who are crucial to Vice UK’s success.

“We stand for the fair and equal treatment of Vice UK workers, inspired by the incredible work of our US colleagues.”

Vice News staff in the US and Canada won union recognition in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

But UK workers saw a request for recognition rejected in 2016, with Vice UK management offering membership of a staff association as an alternative.

The company was then accused of “old-fashioned union-busting”.

The UK union’s statement today finished: “We wish to reiterate that we view a Vice UK NUJ Chapel as a positive step forward in the relationship between Vice UK workers and managers.

“We are all proud to work at Vice UK, and hope this will be the beginning of a long, positive, and industrious working relationship.”

A Vice spokesperson said: “Vice has had positive experiences of working with unions in the US and Canada and has indicated that we are open to engaging with the NUJ to try to establish a constructive relationship in the UK.

“We regret that the NUJ did not give us the opportunity to agree a joint statement indicating our commitment to working at ACAS [the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service] but we look forward to positive discussions with it at the earliest possible opportunity.”

However the union chapel maintains that in a letter to management on 14 March, seen by Press Gazette, it invited the company to draft a statement with it “indicating that we are in talks about the best path towards NUJ recognition”.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser said: “I’m really impressed by the enthusiasm and positivity of the Vice UK NUJ Chapel. They have stressed the constructive role the chapel wants to play in the company’s future.

“We are heartened by the initial response from the company and look forward to engaging in positive and productive talks towards NUJ recognition.”

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