Watch for whopping Wapping lay-offs

NEWS INTERNATIONAL have announced over 100 redundancies across four titles, including 20 at the Sunday Times, as a prelude to a planned move out of their Wapping plant and investment in new presses. A reduction in the use of freelances and casuals by NI is expected to take effect very soon.

Photo © Pennie Quinton
"EXTREME CAUTION" - the apposite warning at an entrance to Fortress Wapping

Some sections of the Sunday Times, which are now quite autonomous, are to be taken apart to save shifts. We have even heard unconfirmed reports that the Times education editor post is to become a part-time one.

Korean-style "love the company" union News International Staff Association (NISA), which can't take on freelances, has agreed a subjective set of criteria for "selection" for redundancies. While NISA was set up to keep the NUJ out of NI, the NUJ is active at Wapping, and some NISA reps are NUJ members as well.

Some casual subs have already been laid off. A complex contractual position at NI  mean that those hired before 1992 have not ungenerous redundancy terms, likely to be better than you'd get an Industrial Tribunal. Some regular casual freelances who have been working for more than four two years may (and we emphasise may) stand a chance of being found to have the same rights as employees at an Industrial Tribunal.

We cannot stress too much the complexity of all the legal issues involved, so if you are a regular casual who's been at NI for a long time, please contact the Freelance Office for advice. Before you do that, read our previous comments on the subject at www.londonfreelance.org/fl/0611work.html

NUJ Newspaper Organiser Barry Fitzpatrick laments the fact that casuals and freelances always seem to wait till the next wave of downsizing - now euphemised as "synergy" - and for the calls to suddenly stop before going to find out whether they have rights equivalent to employees.

It may also be possible to start a grievance procedure with News International around casual shifts suddenly drying up. The redundancies were announced with a 30-day consultation period, but more than 100 redundancies should trigger a statutory 100-day consultation, which would affect any lump sum payments for redundancy.

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