STRESS CAMPAIGN BOOST (19/12/08 08:24)
The NUJ campaign to tackle stress in the workplace has been given a huge boost by media management across the industry.
In response to union attempts to engage with bosses in national newspapers and broadcasting there has been an astonishing series of initiatives which can only inspire the NUJ to raise the campaign to higher levels than we originally thought was required.
At the top of Renfield Street and top of the list in sending stress levels through the roof is of course Newsquest. Editorial staff were tested to the full when new editor in chief Donald Martin called them together to tell them they were all being made redundant.
However this was taken a step further with the explanation that they could all apply for “new posts”, with new contracts, although 30 or 40 would not be successful as more job cuts were required to help meet Newsquest profit targets.
Remarkably he then added fuel to the fire by telling staff they had days to apply for the new posts, even though little or no detail was available about the job descriptions, shift patterns or salary bands.
Now that is how to get to the top of the pile in bad management, it must have come from America surely as not many people in Scotland can get their heads around this type of brutal action designed to set fear and anxiety into the already demoralised workforce.
Anger and disgust has since been compounded by the news that staff who are successful in being signed up to the Martin Revolution face less holidays, more hours, a worse sick pay scheme and a pay freeze to just to add to the festive cheer.
Newsnight Scotland gave the nation an insight into thinking from the Martin camp when managing editor Tom Thompson tried to convince everyone of how “exciting and compelling” the revolution was. But the coup de grace to send the blood pressure of every hack watching through the roof was to announce that Donald was a very talented journalist.
You couldn’t make it up.
Trying to pick a runner-up has been quite difficult although the challengers are not in the same league as Newsquest as yet.
BBC Scotland and Scotsman Publications are probably neck and neck in the race to compete with the Yanks. Both managements have made big noises about tackling stress, indeed only a couple of weeks ago the BBC provided the union with an impressive document which if implemented fully could go a long way to reducing stress at Pacific Quay.
A week or so later they unravelled that good PR by announcing a further cull of around 70 posts across Scotland, including 20 in News and Current Affairs. They then produced a hit list targeting a number of posts, clearly identifying individuals at risk of the chop. In a number of one to one interviews, managers have explained the options for some of the people but apparently the needle gets stuck at the phrase Voluntary Redundancy…
Scotsman senior management initiated a review of operations, which involved looking at merging a number of areas across the three titles. At a meeting with the NUJ Scottish Organiser they said it would be mid-January before they could engage with staff on their proposals. This was reported to a mass meeting later that day.
Within the hour chapel reps were shocked to see copies of the plans circulating for discussion. Now this was exactly what the union had called for, seeking maximum consultation - but talk about messing people about. There is widespread concern at Barclay House particularly after recent redundancies were handled badly, admitted by management but apparently no lessons learnt so far.
Stress levels always rise when redundancies are announced and obviously that varies depending on the methods management employ. Making people redundant could never be described as a civilised process but in this time of great change in our industry and financial crisis around every corner we have to accept there are changes required.
The Daily Record & Sunday Mail chapel is going through a voluntary redundancy process as part of Trinity-wide cutbacks. It is being carried out with a backdrop of a new production system coming in probably in Spring 2009. Those leaving are going voluntarily with decent packages and not being rushed out of the door.
The downside is that staff are already overstretched with a shortage of subs and writers in certain areas and these exits will not help stress levels among those remaining.
The NUJ is aware of the financial situation facing the industry and will offer to work with managements to find solutions to the problems and challenges ahead. We will not compromise on the health and safety of our members and will be responding in kind to the latest setbacks to our aspirations for better working conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive will be involved in this work and we will be calling for more resources from our political friends in Westminster and Holyrood to make our industry a healthier place to work.