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Open letter to New Zealand journalists

Open letter to New Zealand journalists

NZ Herald Albert St Auckland

September 16, 2004

Dear fellow journalists,

As you know, the Australian publisher of the NZ Herald, APN, plans to launch a new Herald on Sunday on October 3.

This is great news for our industry and for the reading public, who will get a choice of quality Sunday papers for the first time since the Sunday Star and Sunday Times merged in March 1994.

Unfortunately, however, APN is attempting to set up the new paper as a non-union site.

The editor, Sue Chetwin, has hired all staff so far on individual contracts and has told staff that no collective coverage is available.

APN has told our union chapel that our existing NZ Herald collective employment agreement does not cover the Herald on Sunday because the new paper is a separate title (even though it will use weekday Herald journalists when they are sent out of town on assignments spanning a weekend, and will carry the NZ Herald masthead above the new words "Herald on Sunday").

We have now held three negotiating sessions with them to attempt to extend our collective coverage to the Sunday edition, but the company position is that they will only contemplate extending collective coverage to the Sunday if we give up all double-time for overtime after three hours and for weekend work after noon on Saturdays - not just for the Sunday workers but for all new NZ Herald workers hired from now on.

They also want to take away another 14 allowances, redundancy clauses and other rights that our forebears in journalism have fought hard for over the 164 years since Samuel Parnell won the right to an eight-hour day in 1840. You can see the full list in the company claim that was tabled at our last negotiating session on 14 Sept (attached), and it is summarised in the box in the attached press release which we are sending to all media today (Sept 16).

We believe that what APN is attempting here threatens all of us in New Zealand journalism.

Much of our industry has been forcibly deunionised by our foreign owners since the Employment Contracts Act shifted the power of the state in the employers' favour in 1991.

As the country's largest paper, and one of the few that is still unionised, the Herald's collective agreement effectively holds up the pay structure throughout the industry.

If we allow APN to set up a non-union site in the heart of the Herald, and even worse if we were to let them strip longstanding rights and allowances out of the whole Herald organisation, we would fatally undermine the strength not just of our own generation but of all future generations of journalists in this country.

We feel that we owe it to everyone else in this industry, now and in the future, to win this fight and extend our collective coverage to the Herald on Sunday on reasonable terms.

We therefore voted yesterday (Sept 15) to:
1. Take legal action to establish APN's obligation to offer membership in the existing Herald collective agreement to new workers hired for the Sunday edition.
2. Ban all work for the Herald on Sunday until its journalists win the right to collective bargaining.

We realise that, in taking these steps, we are taking risks. It is illegal to take any industrial action, such as banning work for the Sunday edition, during the term of a collective agreement (we signed a three-year agreement in April).

We, and/or our union, may therefore be victimised or sued by APN.

These risks are part and parcel of any serious industrial dispute and we recognise that many of you face or have faced similar risks.

Our colleagues who work in our Auckland building on APN's community paper, The Aucklander, are still fighting to win the right to their own collective agreement alongside our new Sunday colleagues. We are all in this together. As the old union saying goes, we either stand together or fall together.

We are therefore writing to ask that you might consider supporting us and our colleagues on both the Herald on Sunday and The Aucklander by, for instance:
1. Sending us messages of support, with copies to APN management and the media.
2. Joining the ban on all work for the Herald on Sunday until it provides decent collective bargaining rights to its workers.
3. Taking this opportunity to assert your own right to bargain collectively, if you don't have it already - you will have our full support in this, and our collective strength as a united industry will be much greater than any separate site can wield alone.

We would be keen to talk about the situation with you and we are available to visit your workplace if you would like us to come.

With best wishes,
Ellen Read – Simon Collins -
Robin Martin -
Herald EPMU union delegates

© Scoop Media

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