Boss gives confusing message to NUJ members, but refuses to reply to open letter
Journalists at the Financial Times have called on Marjorie Scardino to intervene to help avert a strike at the newspaper.
Ms Scardino, CEO at Pearson, which owns the FT, has described the pay offer as “3.5% with no compulsory redundancies”. In an open letter to her also sent to all FT editorial employees on 28 February, Steve Bird, FoC, replied, saying: “I fear that you have been misinformed. If FT staff were being offered 3.5% across the board and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies there would almost certainly be no strike threat.”
NUJ members have voted by three to one to take strike action over the pay issue. They have recently faced 30 redundancies and a threat of compulsory redundancies that was only lifted in January.
Steve Bird continued: “The vast majority of FT Editorial staff have received a 2% pay rise. A handful of others and some non-journalists have received 2.5%. The other 1% could be offered as part of the pay offer (as we have asked to happen) but has not been.
“It is being kept back for use to “retain staff” and to reward certain individuals in a non-transparent way at the sole discretion of the managing editor…We appreciate your concern at the strike threat. In reply to your question about what else to do, it would be best to start by persuading our managers to give us the offer you have outlined in the press…Your intervention could be timely and help avoid a confrontation that would be extremely damaging to the FT brand and to relations in the newsroom.”
At a packed chapel meeting on 29 February, members reiterated their opposition to the 2% offer and called on management to meet at Acas. The meeting also voted to hold a two-hour mandatory meeting in as part of its campaign of industrial action.
Speakers underlined their opposition to the unfairness of a deal that keeps back 30% of the pay award for private pay settlements. Several speakers deplored management’s complete failure to recognise staff opposition to the plan and a “bullying” attitude by negotiators who have described the chapel – which includes the majority of the newsroom – as a “vocal minority”.
Steve Bird added: “By turning this pay negotiation into a battleground, management are in danger of making this into a make or break issue. We have a very strong chapel and members will fight for its survival. I really hope that we can talk sensibly and find common ground at Acas.”
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The FT is making a good profit and in its end of year report, the group is claiming that it has achieved the highest circulation in the paper’s history. So why is it offering its journalists, who must take credit for this success, an insult of a pay deal?”
Ms Scardino has not replied to the open letter thus far.
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