NUJ picket line at the Redditch Standard newspaper August 2020, photo Birmingham SP

NUJ picket line at the Redditch Standard newspaper August 2020, photo Birmingham SP   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Bob Severn, Birmingham South East Socialist Party

It’s “nepotism not journalism” said one picket. The Bullivant Media National Union of Journalists (NUJ) chapel (branch) were out on their first ever strike on 25-26 August, opposing compulsory redundancies, demanding to be paid in full and wanting to protect high-quality journalism.

Warwickshire and Worcestershire newspaper publisher Bullivant Media Limited is owned and ran by the Bullivant family. One family member has started publishing their own ‘cut-and-paste’ type stories while bypassing editorial staff and undercutting news quality.

At the same time, the actual journalists – some on minimum wage – were not paid in full for three months. Some received next to nothing and had to go to food banks as a result. There was no warning before these pay cuts – the workers just found out when they opened their bank statements!

Also undercutting news quality will be the proposed job cuts, including a compulsory redundancy that targets an NUJ member in blatant trade unionist victimisation. These cuts will result in higher workloads for the remaining staff, who are already overworked as management demand more journalistic output. Distribution staff have already been made redundant.

On 21 August, when conciliation service Acas talks between the union and employer ended, Bullivant confirmed three jobs would go, including one compulsory redundancy. While less than the five posts originally under threat, the chapel remains steadfastly opposed to any compulsory lay-off.

The 18 journalists produce nine weekly freesheets, including the Coventry Observer and Redditch Standard. The chapel voted unanimously for, and is 100% solid behind, the four-day strike, which continued on 1-2 September, with pickets at the company’s Redditch office.

The NUJ chapel has received solidarity and financial support from trade unionists across the UK and Ireland.

Donations, labelled ‘Bullivant strike’, can be made to the NUJ strike hardship fund: sort code 60-83-01, account number 20049274, account name NUJ Manchester.

Emails raising concerns can be sent to Bullivant’s managing director at [email protected]