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Union predicts 100 will join Evening News strike

National Union of Journalists members at the Manchester Evening News plan to strike for two days – starting on October 31 – in protest at management plans to change working patterns and practices.

As reported by HoldtheFrontPage last month, the paper wants to produce a new breakfast-time edition of the paper.

Union members feel their contracts are being breached by having to work new shift patterns and more anti-social late night and Sunday shifts, and by being given extra responsibilities. They are also worried about the possibility of shifts without the breaks required under the Working Time Regulations.

Union organiser Miles Barter said: “The company said it had no intention of employing extra staff to cover the evening and Sundays shifts that the new edition will require, demanding that existing employees should adjust their work patterns – meaning late night and Sunday working.”

Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks has been quick to point out that the proposed changes will not mean journalists working longer hours, but different hours, and that flexible working is part of every journalist’s contract.

He also said claims that shifts would break Working Time Regulations were a “red-herring” and the early edition of the Manchester Evening News will go ahead on November 1 as planned.

He said: “We are disappointed the journalists have voted for a two day strike, followed by a work to rule. We remain available for talks with the NUJ this week.

“However, we are continuing with our plans to start the early edition of the Manchester Evening News on November 1, as planned.

“A lot of effort has gone into trying to avoid this industrial action and the management has already made a number of concessions to the chapel journalists.

“We have offered a programme that involves recruiting 10 people specifically to work evenings and weekends as well as additional casuals which means on a typical day the chapel will only be required to have ONE member working the new shifts to cover for sickness, holidays and emergencies.

“No one is being asked to work longer hours, just different hours, as they are already contracted to do.”

Since the announcement on the early edition, management and national and local chapel officials have spent more than 150 hours in negotiations.

More than 100 union members are expected to strike, according to officials.

The two-day strike on October 31 and November 1 follows an 83 per cent vote among members for industrial action in a secret ballot. After the strike the chapel, which includes journalists at the Manchester Metro News, is imposing a work to rule until further notice – refusing to work the new shifts.

More than 50 journalists have also submitted individual grievances.

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