Something is stirring in Dundee, headquarters of the DC Thomson newspaper and magazine group. The company is notoriously non-union, but in recent weeks and months dozens of workers there have been joining the National Union of Journalists. The union says it has been “inundated with membership applications from editorial staff”.
The surge in recruitment began with the company’s introduction of an ironically named Reward Project for staff. Said the Dundee Branch of the NUJ, this offered the hard-working journalists the choice between a two-and-a-half hour rise in the working week or a 10 per cent pay cut – plus the promise of a pay freeze for up to three years for almost a quarter of staff deemed to be receiving too much pay.
In May the first meeting of the Dundee Branch for over a year saw more than 60 journalists attending. The announcement on 18 June that 350 printing jobs were to go with the closure of its Guthrie Street plant – where it printed magazines and books – has only added to the impetus to join the union.
As well as publishing newspapers The Courier, Evening Telegraph and The Sunday Post, the company is well known for magazines such as the Beano and People’s Friend.
Meanwhile, the NUJ has lodged a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission over the way that the introduction of a new content management system at Johnston Press is inviting journalists to break the editors’ code of conduct. A memo from the managing director of South Yorkshire Newspapers, owned by Johnston Press, says that editors “should not continue with the old practice of reading every story”.
The NUJ is locked in a bitter battle with Johnston Press, one of the largest regional newspaper publishers in Britain, which had one overwhelming ballot result for strike action overturned in the courts.
Recruitment also continues apace at Mirror Group Newspapers The NUJ lacks negotiating rights there – a historical anomaly resulting from bitter infighting that saw the NUJ General Secretary and Mirror Group representative Steve Turner leave the union and found the British Association of Journalists in 1992. The BAJ is only recognised at the Mirror Group and one of its former titles.
The NUJ has appealed to the BAJ to work jointly with it to resist plans to axe 200 jobs. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said, “This savage package of redundancies is also a stark warning to editorial staff at national, regional and local newspapers all over the country, as they reveal the real, cost-cutting intent behind the introduction of content management systems such as Contentwatch, as used at the Trinity Mirror group and ATEX, as used across Johnston Press.”