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Guardian journalists vote for 24/7 plans

Guardian journalists today voted in favour of an "enabling deal" that offered backing for the company's 24/7 integration plans.

The National Union of Journalists' Guardian chapel endorsed the deal by 211 votes to 27, with two abstentions.

Today's agreement gives staff a two-year, 4.8% pay rise effective from the current financial year, with an additional inflation-linked boost from April 2008.

However, the chapel warned management at Guardian publisher Guardian News and Media that it would remain vigilant about the company's ongoing project to integrate the staffs of the paper, the Observer and the Guardian Unlimited websites.

The agreement commits all journalists "to be available to work across different media within all GNM editorial departments as assigned by their editors".

"The chapel notes that it has had to take several issues on trust and based on broad assurances from the company," today's chapel motion stated.

"In particular, the chapel has continuing concerns about the possible extent of early, late and weekend working, the degree of multi-platform working and the potential for changes to lead to excessive working hours and the exposure of staffing shortages.

"The chapel therefore gives notice that it will vigorously monitor the implementation of the agreement and integration process and will ensure that implementation is subject to negotiation at chapel and sectional level.

"In the event that management at any point fails to address these concerns or abide by both the letter and spirit of the agreement, chapel officers are instructed to put the matter into dispute and call a mandatory meeting to consider a ballot for industrial action and/or a work to contract.

"The chapel also urges members to monitor their working hours over the coming months and pass on the results to committee representatives."

Today's chapel meeting followed intensive meetings earlier this month between chapel officers, NUJ national officials and management that have been held at Acas, the conciliation service.

The vote is subject to approval of the 24/7 agreement by the Observer's NUJ chapel at a meeting tomorrow.

It paves the way for a new house agreement applying to all journalists at the Guardian, Observer and Guardian Unlimited to be completed by March.

The new terms that have been hammered out include the replacement of the previous no compulsory redundancy clause for Guardian journalists with a new security of employment clause covering all GNM editorial staff, including those on the Observer and Guardian Unlimited.

This new clause commits GNM to avoiding compulsory redundancies except in "extreme circumstances".

Full-time journalists will work between 35 and 40 hours a week, while those working nine day fortnights must be available for some weekend shifts.

Journalists who choose to move from a nine-day fortnight to a five-day week will be given a 5% pay rise, though they will not be required to work any extra hours.

The company is seeking to shift 145 roles from nine-day fortnights to five-day weeks, with around 40 roles to be switched from five-day weeks to nine-day fortnights.

There will also be a minimum salary of £30,000, up 7.1% from current levels, effective from April.

The NUJ's general secretary, Jeremy Dear, who was involved in the negotiations with management, said the agreement was "an infinite improvement" on GNM's original proposals.

"However, our agreement is no blank cheque for the Guardian to do as it pleases as it moves to 24/7 working," he added.

"If our reviews of implementation show that management has broken commitments made during negotiations, then industrial action will be back on the cards."

Chris Elliott, the Guardian managing editor, said: "We are very pleased that the chapel has accepted the offer.

"This has been a highly complex set of negotiations involving fundamental change to the structures of both papers and our website, and has been achieved without the job losses or threats of industrial action experienced by other media organisations.

"This agreement now paves the way for a successful move towards integrated print and digital publishing around the clock, and our continuing domestic and international expansion."

Date posted: November 29, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 136