Fairfax staff take protected industrial action, following executive pay rises and email blunder

Cartoon by Canberra Times 's David Pope

Cartoon by Canberra Times ‘s David Pope

Fairfax staff will take protected industrial action next week and step up a public awareness campaign after staff yesterday rejected a pay offer from management which comprised a merit pool of bonus payments but no general pay rise for editorial staff.

Today Fairfax staff across Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane are implementing a tactic of “performance of work in a manner different for that in which it is customary for it to be performed” – which includes wearing black “FairGoFairfax” t-shirts and a possible ‘work to rule’ 1pm lunch time walk out, ahead of a meeting with management on Tuesday.

Tensions at the publisher grew yesterday after it was revealed the company had posted a $224.4m net profit, with four top managers receiving $2.4m in additional performance shares at a time when the formal offer was zero per cent.

The situation was inflamed after an email from Fairfax Counsel Gail Hambly was accidentally sent by PR Sue Cato to journalists justifying the move by saying the “management was prepared to back itself to achieve set targets –  something the journalists are refusing to do”.

In the wake of those remarks members of the Media and Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) met and voted to reject an informal offer by the publisher that would have seen staggered two per cent pay rises with most of the money going into a “merit pool” which editors distribute at their discretion. 

“Meetings of members this afternoon rejected the company’s offer,” said an MEAA spokesman. “We will be meeting with the company next week and members will be considering industrial action in the claim.”

Fairfax Fair GoAccording to the resolution passed yesterday the members also asked the union to inform the company that it would take a protected action stopwork meeting next Thursday and of its intention to take “other industrial measures” over the next two weeks “unless Fairfax Media comes back to staff with a meaningful pay offer that adequately reflects the current circumstances of the company”.

The resolution also decries the recent management bonuses noting: “We are surprised and disappointed that management of this company feels it’s appropriate to give themselves such lucrative rewards while at the same time lecturing staff about the need for stringent cuts to our pay and conditions.”

In May staff at Farifax centres staged a 24-hour strike after management proposed huge cuts to the photographic department, and announced a new deal with Getty Images to provide picture services as part of huge cost-cutting measures which senior managers receive performance bonuses for delivering.

Fairfax has been contacted for comment.

Nic Christensen 


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