Bullivant Media, which runs weekly, free newspapers and online sites, has announced redundancy plans, established new working practices, and left journalists unpaid for months. The NUJ voiced concerns about decreasing journalistic quality and standards as the company turned to non-editorial staff to take over journalistic work.
The local NUJ, which has all 18 editorial staff and was only formed earlier this year, voted unanimously in favor of industrial action, stating:“All we are asking for is that journalists are paid what they are owed in future, and staff should be properly consulted on the restructuring proposals. We also want the company to agree to avoid compulsory redundancies. That is why we are on strike today.“
The NUJ and Bullivant Media Limited had been in talks mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), a publicly funded independent organization aiming to promote better employment relations. The talks ended on Friday, 21 August, without an agreement.
The same day, Bullivant Media confirmed they were going ahead with cutting three editorial jobs - two volunteers and one strongly contested compulsory redundancy. Initially, the company put five positions at risk but negotiations with the NUJ have reduced this number to three. NUJ members fear more jobs might be at risk in the coming months.
“It is with huge reluctance that our members take strike action - in the middle of a pandemic. But the issues that are core to them as professional journalists have not been properly addressed over a long period. And they have the right to live without the fear of being forced out of their jobs or not being paid what they are owed,” said Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands senior organizer.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant General Secretary added: “To be forced to take industrial action in the midst of a pandemic is something no union member wants to contemplate and it is very disappointing that the employer has not engaged constructively with the NUJ.”
Bullivant Media NUJ members plans to strike again on Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 September.
The IFJ President, Younes Mjahed, and the IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, sent a message of solidarity to the striking journalists saying: “It is a scandal, that in one of the richest countries in the world, and in an industry which creates huge wealth, that local journalists are having to resort to food banks and are facing deductions from their salary or having their salary going unpaid. By cutting jobs, the company does nothing to strengthen journalism, does nothing to address the interests of the communities it serves but instead undermines quality and fair working practices.”