Journalists at Bullivant Media are to go on strike tomorrow and Wednesday in a dispute over the company’s redundancy plans and recent issues with wages being paid on time.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is orchestrating the action at the company, which runs weekly free newspapers and websites including the Coventry Observer, Leamington Observer, Rugby Observer, Stratford Observer, Solihull Observer, Redditch Standard, Bromsgrove Standard, Worcester Observer and Evesham Observer.
The Bullivant Media NUJ chapel said: “Strike action is a last resort and we continue to invite the company to respond to our reasonable demands for fair pay and decent working practices.
“Working non-furloughed staff, many already on the breadline, have had to consider going to foodbanks after getting to the end of each month and discovering there is no salary in their bank accounts, or there has been a 50 per cent deduction from their wages.”
On Friday afternoon ACAS confirmed the company are going ahead with cutting three editorial jobs – two volunteers and one compulsory redundancy. Initially the company put five jobs at risk but negotiations with the NUJ has reduced this number to three – two volunteers and one strongly contested compulsory redundancy.
The NUJ chapel at Bullivant Media Limited was formed earlier this year and includes every member of the editorial team. The chapel voted unanimously in favour of industrial action and will strike on 25/26 August and 1/2 September.
The dispute focuses on allegations of unauthorised deductions from wages, plans for targeted compulsory redundancies and detrimental working practices – non-editorial staff have taken on editorial work and there are plans to cut professional photography. NUJ members believe these changes will have a negative impact on journalistic quality and standards.
The Bullivant Media NUJ chapel added: “We understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and the media industry, but staff have been left in the dark and out of pocket. At the same time the company has demanded more journalistic output in an attempt to address its cash flow issues and deficits – staff have gone without annual leave and there are health and safety concerns with a small, hard working team being pushed beyond their limit.
“We believe the redundancy proposals have been used as an attempt to derail the strike and demoralise the chapel – it is further alleged the company are targeting the active and leading members of our union.
“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.
“We are asking everyone who cares about local quality journalism to support our strike and help us to convince the company they need to change their approach.”
The union remains concerned that more job losses could follow when the government’s furlough scheme ends in October.