Workers at Vice Media’s division in the United Kingdom went public with a renewed union drive today, asking the U.S.-based company to recognize their membership in Britain’s National Union of Journalists for the second time after a 2016 push for recognition was rejected by management.
The Vice UK unit, or “chapel” in the NUJ’s structure, will consist of workers in editorial, production, and post-production roles. Many of these employees are already NUJ members who are asking Vice management to recognize their membership and to negotiate with the chapel collectively. (Vice News staffers in the U.S. are unionized with the Writers Guild of America East, which also represents Splinter.) In a statement posted this morning, organizers noted that they hoped to address several issues within the company, including “redundancy processes,” “pay equity and transparency,” and diversity and representation.
Vice Media recently settled a class-action lawsuit brought by female staff members who alleged they were paid less than their male peers, paying out $1.87 million to the plaintiffs. A committee member of the UK union told Splinter that layoffs at BuzzFeed UK, as well as the most recent round of “restructuring” at the company’s U.S. offices spurred their unit to make another push for recognition.
In a statement to Splinter, a Vice spokesperson said the company was “open to engaging with the NUJ,” but that the Vice UK unit did not give it the opportunity to agree to a joint statement while working at the UK’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Bolding is ours:
VICE has had positive experiences of working with unions in the US and Canada and has indicated that we are open to engaging with the NUJ to try to establish a constructive relationship in the UK. We regret that the NUJ did not give us the opportunity to agree a joint statement indicating our commitment to working at ACAS but we look forward to positive discussions with it at the earliest possible opportunity.
According to the Vice UK union committee, the unit gave management 10 working days to agree to a joint statement regardless of the status of ACAS arbitration between the groups. In a March 14 letter viewed by Splinter and sent from the unit’s organizers and the NUJ to Matt Elek, Vice’s CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the unit informed management that they would go public if they had not received a response by March 28. From the letter:
Under this legislation there are 10 working days for you to respond, starting with the day after you received this request. We look forward to hearing from you by 28th March 2019.
After the 10 working days has elapsed, VICE UK union members will also go public with their commitment to securing a productive and positive relationship with management. We invite you to help draft a statement with us, indicating we are in talks about the best path toward NUJ recognition.
A union committee member said that no date had been said for an ACAS meeting, but that they hope to have one sometime next week.
The discrepancy, it seems, was that management wanted to work on a joint statement at ACAS, while the unit didn’t want to break the 10-day timeline they asked for earlier in the month. Here’s hoping both sides can continue “productive” discussions that result in recognizing the dang union.