Gareth Lowe is the Chair of Unite’s National Publishing and Media Branch and works as Publishing Programme Manager for DK, part of Penguin Random House. Gareth will be hosting our July event with Unite the Union, ‘United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?‘. We interviewed him here.
1) How do you think that pay and conditions in the publishing industry differ today, to how they were 20 years ago?
Book publishing’s always been known as a fairly low paid industry. That hasn’t changed, but we have seen major publishing houses awarding under-inflationary pay rises in recent years. That means that real wages are getting worse for many in the industry. On the other hand, there are a number of roles where wages are growing massively, including roles working with new, digital technologies and also executive roles.
Over the past two decades we’ve seen publishers merging and buying each other out. It also seems to me that it’s a tougher climate to run an independent publishing house now than it was 20 years ago. These factors combined mean we’re not seeing improvements in conditions for many workers, and in a number of cases, terms and conditions are being eroded with employees preferring to simply hold on to their jobs.
2) Why have Unite collaborated with BookMachine to discuss this important topic?
Pay and conditions are essential to the health of our industry. They determine how those of us who work in book publishing are rewarded, and also whether young people are incentivised to join our trade. BookMachine provides the perfect partner for Unite to get our message out and reach today’s modern publishing workforce.
3) As an industry, what have you seen done to improve pay and conditions, that has impressed you?
Especially in times of economic hardship, it’s necessary to think outside of the box as to how to reward employees. I’ve seen minimum pay increases become more common – these are a great way of helping out the poorest and levelling wage gaps without sending a company into financial ruin. Also there have been some very creative uses of non-financial incentives that really make a difference to employees!
4) What do you hope to learn from the event on the 14th?
We’ve such top class contributors to this event, all of whom are coming at the topic from different viewpoints. I expect a lively debate that will make myself and all the other attendees think. And it won’t be too heavy, either – if last year’s event was anything to go by, people should have a great time whilst they get educated!
5) If one of our readers can’t attend the event, what else can they do to find out more?
Sign up to the union here. Find out if your workplace recognises the union, and if so, who your best point of contact is. Speak to them about the situation in your workplace. Once signed up, keep an eye on communications from Unite’s National Publishing and Media Branch. I’d encourage anyone interested to get involved, really – change only happens when we make it so.
Grab your ticket for ‘United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?’ on the 14th July here.