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Herald Journalists Ban New Sunday Paper

Herald journalists ban new Sunday paper

New Zealand Herald journalists have banned work for the Herald’s new Sunday paper until the paper’s owners allow journalists on the Sunday edition to negotiate their pay and conditions collectively.

The paper’s editor, Sue Chetwin, has hired all staff so far on individual contracts and has told workers that no collective coverage is available. Australian publisher APN, controlled by Irish millionaire Tony O’Reilly, has told the journalists’ union that it is prepared to negotiate with workers collectively for the Sunday only if journalists hired from now on for both the weekday and Sunday editions give up 15 longstanding workers’ rights won during the Herald’s 141-year history (see box).

The company said recently that it expects to make a profit of NZ$131 million this year, but its New Zealand deputy chief executive Rick Neville said the economics of the new Sunday edition depended on not paying extra to compensate journalists for working at weekends when their children are home from school.

The company’s 15 clawback demands include removing all rights to “double-time” for work after noon on Saturdays or for overtime beyond the first three hours. It wants all such double-time rates reduced to time-and-a-half.

Auckland University history lecturer John Leckie said most New Zealand industries won double-time rates after noon on Saturdays in the 1890s, although some lost them again when weekend shopping returned in the 1980s and 90s.

“The logic of paying penalty rates for overtime, which employers in the past accepted, was that the overtime was bonus production, using equipment and capital that had already paid for itself with ordinary-time production. It was all profit,” he said. “It’s an old argument, but the basic principle of it is pretty hard for employers to refute.”

Herald union delegate Ellen Read said APN was acting illegally under the Employment Relations Act by refusing to employ journalists for the Sunday edition on the terms of the existing Herald collective agreement for their first 30 days.

Lawyer Helen White of the journalists’ union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), sent a letter to APN’s Rick Neville on Tuesday asserting that the existing collective agreement clearly covered the Sunday edition, which will be published under a masthead which incorporates the traditional Gothic masthead of the NZ Herald.

Neville has told the union that the weekday and Sunday editions will be separate newspapers. But editors have told the journalists that they may have to write for both editions if sent out of town on assignments that span the weekend. Weekday journalists voted overwhelmingly yesterday not to do any such work for the Sunday edition until their colleagues hired for the Sunday achieve the right to bargain collectively.

Ellen Read said journalists had bent over backwards to help APN by accepting that journalists could work for the Sunday edition on fixed annual salaries that did not differentiate between weekday and weekend work, provided that salary levels were at least equivalent to what those journalists would get under the existing pay scales.

“But we are not prepared to simply give away rights that our forebears struggled to achieve 110 years ago in order to achieve a right to collective bargaining that is supposed to be guaranteed by law,” she said.

APN’s Clawbacks

Longstanding rights that APN wants to axe as the price of collective bargaining:

Double-time pay for: overtime beyond 3 hours weekends after noon on Saturdays starting a new shift within 10 hours of finishing a shift.

10% extra pay for casual workers.

Redundancy pay for workers who do not accept redeployment offers.

Payment for accumulated untaken sick leave as part of redundancy pay.

The right to accumulate sick leave up to 150 days for a serious illness.

Four days off in a fortnight in addition to statutory holidays.

Three-day weekends once every six weeks for workers who regularly work weekends.

Paid meal breaks after five hours’ continuous work.

Meal allowance ($11.30) if required to work more than one hour’s overtime.

Night allowance ($14.90) if required to work after 11pm.

Transport allowance (depending on distance) if required to work after 10pm.

Midday shift allowance ($11.21) if starting work at or after noon.

Early start allowance ($8.21) if starting work before 7am.

Late work allowance ($8.21) if finishing between 10pm and 11pm.

15. Clothing allowance ($286.10 a year) for photographers.

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