Rough Guides seeks talks

THE NUJ is in talks with Penguin over recognition for the Rough Guides Chapel.

A first meeting took place on 29 November, through the auspices of ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Freelance Organiser John Toner and Assistant Organiser Pamela Morton represented the NUJ.

John Toner reports: "I have been trying since April to persuade Penguin to take our request for recognition [to negotiate terms] seriously.

"I had actually given up on informal talks and was literally about to put a claim to the Central Arbitration Committee - which rules on union recognition issues - in the post, when the company's director of legal affairs rang.

"She asked me to hold off, and offered a meeting by ACAS. I agreed, as it is good practice to attempt an informal agreement where possible."

He went on to say that this does not necessarily mean a recognition deal is in the offing.

"They raised many points of difficulty: principally, the questions of whether the travel authors meet the legal definition of 'worker' and whether the bargaining unit proposed by the NUJ is viable from a business point of view." The attempt to gain recognition for the travel authors would break new legal ground, says Toner.

While the NUJ has achieved many recognition agreements for employees, it has not yet attempted to achieve recognition for a group of freelances using the statutory route.

He said: "As the law stands, most freelances do not meet the definition of 'worker'. Our legal advice, however, is that the RG travel writers do meet the definition." A further meeting is planned for January 2007.

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