NUJ ballot on possible industrial action at the Herald & Times Group expected next week

A BALLOT on possible industrial action by members of the National Union of Journalists at the Herald & Times Group of newspapers – including The Herald – is expected to take place next week, following a breakdown in negotiations over planned redundancies.

Last month, it was announced that around 17 posts were at risk of redundancy, as the group seeks to introduce a new editorial production system. The affected posts are in production and on the multimedia desk.

The NUJ chapel had voted for a ballot on possible industrial action at the end of last month, and now it has been sprung into action by the talks breakdown, which yesterday sought a relatively modest improvement on the statutory redundancy terms being offered by the group’s owners.

It is understood there are more applications for voluntary redundancy than posts at risk, but that was assuming the negotiations would deliver the improved redundancy terms. The company is to begin tomorrow on ‘scoring’ staff performance, which may or may not coincide with those seeking voluntary redundancy, thus raising the spectre of possible compulsory redundancies.

The union is seeking redundancy based on two weeks per year served, not the between one or one-and-a-half (depending on age) that the company is offering. The ballot will comprise two questions: industrial action short of strike action and industrial action including strike action.

It is expected ballot papers will be going out next week.

Said Paul Holleran, Scottish Organiser at the NUJ: “All of this could have been avoided, in the same way that a similar exercise situation at The Scotsman papers – the jobs implications of a new editorial production system being installed – saw the union and the papers’ publishers work together, to try to find a solution that worked for both parties. And we did.

“There is no reason why The Herald’s publishers can’t do the same and it’s resulted in a lot of anger. It’s not good industrial relations, it’s not good business sense. And it’s not that we are looking for massively improved terms. This could be sorted quickly, but it looks like we’re headed for two-to-three months of conflict.”

A Herald & Times Group spokesperson said the company had received notification from the NUJ of a ballot for industrial action. He confirmed that if insufficient staff accepted voluntary redundancy a selection process for compulsory redundancy would begin shortly. In answer to a question about redundancy terms, he said they were “more generous” than the statutory minimum.