Herald work-to-rule dropped ahead of ballot re-run

A PLANNED work-to-rule planned from Friday by members of the National Union of Journalists at The Herald group of newspapers has been dropped, with a ballot on possible industrial action to be re-run.

It follows the company making it clear that the action – called in protest at compulsory redundancies – might be invalid on two technicalities.

Staff at the papers were told today that the ballot paper and notification letter about the planned work-to-rule both refer to the ‘wrong’ company, ‘Newsquest (Herald and Evening Times)’, when it should have been ‘Newsquest (Herald and Times)’. Also there was a problem with the specification of dates.

Said a letter to staff: “Therefore for the avoidance of doubt, in the event that you decide to take part in the industrial acton you may not receive the statutory immunity and may be in breach of your contract of employment with us.”

Some 17 posts have been made redundant following plans to introduce a new editorial production system, nine of them voluntary and the remaining eight compulsory.

A ballot of NUJ members delivered a 96 per cent vote among respondents in favour of industrial action short of strike action. it also delivered an 86 per cent vote in favour of strike action, but yesterday the NUJ chapel at The Herald and sister papers, the Sunday Herald and the Evening Times, decided to hold fire on taking strike action.

That was before today’s letter. The decision to re-run the ballot was taken after advice from the NUJ’s lawyers who are understood to have confirmed that a challenge by the Herald & Times Group – under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 – might be valid.