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Consent or coercion

Consent or Coercion – shape your fate in an age of change [REPORT]

Yesterday evening, members and friends of BookMachine and Unite gathered at St Bride Foundation for a panel discussion on the subject of change. There’s perhaps no better place to think about how the publishing industry has changed over the years than this historic building, tucked away just off Fleet Street, the former heart of the London newspaper industry – and no sign that the process of change that silenced the Fleet Street printing presses is likely to stop soon, if ever.

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publishing changes

How to shape your fate as the publishing industry changes

The publishing industry has faced many changes over the years, none bigger perhaps than the digital boom. We’ve seen numerous publishing departments restructured, as companies shift to digital. In 2016 Pearson Education, once the largest publisher in the world, announced it would reduce its workforce by 10% by the end of 2017.

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Dealing with change at work: Tony Burke interview

On 19th July, over 100 publishers will meet at St Bride Foundation off Fleet Street to discuss how to deal with change at work. One of the panelists is Tony Burke, an Assistant General Secretary at Unite the Union. Here are some of his thoughts ahead of the event.

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Dealing with change at work: John Pettigrew interview

On 19th July, over 100 publishers will meet at St Bride Foundation off Fleet Street to discuss how to deal with change at work. One of the panellists is John Pettigrew, Founder of Futureproofs. Here are some of this thoughts ahead of the event.

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IPG

It pays to work in independent publishing

Ahead of BookMachine’s event on pay and working conditions in publishing, the Independent Publishers Guild’s chief executive Bridget Shine looks at working life in the indie sector. 

In independent publishing, people really matter. At the IPG, we talk regularly to members about pay and conditions, and are often struck by just how much they value their staff.

That’s because in the relatively small teams of many IPG members, the contribution of every member is vital. When we undertook our biggest ever survey of members for our first Independent Publishing Report late last year, we found they employ an average of 9.3 staff—so each of them is valuable and valued. The report also showed the importance that our members place on training, and we have responded to that by increasing the learning opportunities that we offer as part of membership, including new online training packages and bursaries for those who want to improve specific skills.

We get more insights into conditions in independent publishing through our salary surveys, the most recent of which suggested that pay at all levels of publishing was increasing steadily if modestly, despite all the challenges and uncertainty in the market. It showed too how independent publishers make good use of perks and incentives to reward staff. Bonus schemes, linked to either company-wide or individual performances, and sometimes including share options, are becoming more popular. When small teams need to pull together and chip in to a multitude of tasks, these schemes can be excellent incentives.

Publishers supplement pay in lots more ways. Our salary survey found that four in five offer flexible working, for example—something that is really appreciated by staff who want to balance work and family life. Other perks include private health or life insurance, enhanced maternity pay, season ticket loans and study leave.

The IPG has a huge range of members, from big international operators down to tiny start-ups, and the scale of pay and benefits naturally varies enormously. But what companies have in common is the awareness that great staff are absolutely pivotal to their success, and an eagerness to recognize and reward good performance.

It is pleasing to note that this loyalty is reciprocated. Staff in independent publishing—and first or second jobbers in particular—tell us that their companies offer responsibilities and opportunities for progression that can be harder to come by at larger companies. “When you work in a small team you take on more responsibility to cover the workload, so you develop your skills and knowledge a lot faster,” Carcanet’s Katie Caunt said in our ‘Me and My Job’ series recently. “I’ve always enjoyed trying to see the whole machine… In a small independent you can really immerse yourself in every part,” said Salt’s Chris Hamilton-Emery. Working for conglomerates can be rewarding too, but IPG members offer some terrific and unique experiences and opportunities. They are great places to start and build careers.

Self-employed in publishing

Are yEUr rights protected? Workers’ rights and the EU

Following the EU referendum and ahead of our July event with Unite the Union, ‘United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?‘, Jasmin Kirkbride summarises current workers’ rights and how they may be affected if the UK votes Leave. 

It has become fashionable to grumble about ‘EU Red Tape’. However, on closer inspection, these laws that we so easily complain about offer huge protection for workers across the UK.

Rights the EU enforces and protects

Amongst other things, EU law ensures that our government must give workers paid holidays, rights for new mothers, 18 weeks of parental leave, limits on how long we can be forced to work, protection from discrimination against religion, belief, gender assignment, sexuality, age and race.

Certain rights that seem like no-brainers now were only put in place because of the EU: for example, the law saying that if your company is sold, you are entitled to the same pay and conditions as before. The EU also ensures that if any major changes are coming up in a company, union representatives and employee forums must be informed.

Some of these laws look after us day-to-day, others you might not necessarily notice until the going gets tough. But they are there to protect us hail, rain or shine.

How leaving affects the law

The Leave camp has argued many times that these laws will continue to exist if Britain leaves the EU. While this may be true in the short term, and our rights would not disappear overnight, the future is less certain.

The UK government has not always welcomed EU directives protecting the worker. There were bitter complaints against the law stating that part-time workers should have the same rights as full-time workers, for instance. If we left the EU, the government could very easily chip away at or scrap laws like these that are currently crucial to the worker. You may think this seems unlikely but, outside the EU, governments regularly curtail workers’ rights: in America for example, workers are legally entitled to no annual leave at all.

Already, the UK government is not exceptionally benevolent to workers, particularly not under Conservative leadership. Conservative minister Michael Gove has said, “membership of the EU prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law” as a reason to leave. The idea that these changes would not include workers’ rights is naïve at best. Worse, current government estimates say that around 820,000 jobs are likely to be lost in the UK if we leave the EU: not a good start to renegotiations.

Other Leave camp arguments have included the idea that the EU no longer has anything to offer the worker in terms of employment rights. However this seems to be untrue as, amongst other items on the agenda, campaigners from the EU are currently trying to tackle the dreaded zero-hours contract.

Who do you trust?

Ultimately, the decision is based on who you trust to look after your rights as a worker.

With controversial issues like TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) coming to the fore, we cannot pretend that the EU is not in need of reform. We cannot rest on our laurels and assume that remaining in the EU will automatically protect our rights and our future.

But over the years, the EU has proven to offer a strong, consistent layer of protection from the whims of UK governments on a four-year turnover. That protection is something we should not overlook.

Join us for United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?‘ on the 14th July. Early bird ticket sales end 30th June (£8, instead of £15).

Your pay – your say: Gareth Lowe interview

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.

Owen Jones to discuss publishing pay and conditions at next event

On 14th July BookMachine is back, this time in collaboration with Unite and with Guardian columnist and political activist Owen Jones as keynote speaker. (Owen is author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment – And How They Get Away With It.)

The event focuses on pay and conditions in the industry, and the aim of the evening is to review the current position of workers in the UK publishing industry and discuss various models of how workers pay should be decided.

Owen will give an introduction to the event, with other speakers that follow comprising Simon Dubbins, international director, Unite the Union, and Michelle Stanistreet, the first woman in history to be elected general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland). The event will be chaired by Gareth Lowe, chair of Unite’s national publishing and media branch and a publishing programme manager at DK. Speakers will also take questions from the audience.

More information and tickets: https://bookmachine.org/event/united-publish-ii-pay-say-2/ – early bird tickets are on sale until 24 June.

Your pay – your say: Tania Hummel interview

Tania Hummel is an executive coach and board-level HR professional. She has worked in HR for almost 20 years and was most recently Global HR Director for Macmillan Science and Education. Tania will be speaking at our July event with Unite the Union, ‘United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?‘. We interviewed her here. 

1) How do you think that pay and conditions in the publishing industry differ today, to how they were 20 years ago?

The publishing industry has seen enormous change over the last 20 years. The rise of Amazon, the advent of ebooks, and changes in the way that rights are bought and sold have transformed the industry in ways that couldn’t have been predicted before the internet age. Consumers now expect content to be delivered in a variety of ways, whether as print, ebooks, audio, games. Publishers have become multi-media, multi-platform content providers and new skills and ways of working are still evolving.

Things felt a lot more certain 20 years ago, and this was reflected in the terms and conditions at the time. Publishing with its low margins and long lead times paid less than other skilled industries, and Publishers took a more ‘paternalistic’ approach generally to pay and benefits. In a more uncertain (VUCA) world, Defined Benefit pension schemes have become unaffordable, and benefits that reward long service are less attractive to staff who can’t really afford to work for too long at any one employer, as moving on is often the only way of securing a substantial pay rise.

Many jobs were outsourced quite early on – proofreading, typesetting and some editorial roles. Sometimes to freelancers in the UK, while other roles or tasks like publishing services went abroad to places like India. It’s likely that publishing will continue to buy in the skills it needs from outside the industry, and that roles within the industry will also continue to change. Some will become more skilled, whilst others are likely to be automated and disappear. In any event, I expect to see more freelancing, not less, in line with predictions of the rise in the ‘gig’ economy.

2) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who didn’t think that they were being treated fairly in the workplace?

It depends on the facts of the situation. Being treated fairly can mean different things to different people. If the situation was a one-off and seemed uncharacteristic of the culture, I’d encourage the individual to check their company’s grievance policy for guidance and to raise their concerns informally in the first instance with a sympathetic HR contact. Failing that, I’d suggest that they approach ACAS or their union rep if they have one.

3) What can publishing professionals do before accepting a new job, to make sure that their working conditions are acceptable?

They can do an internet search, or visit Glassdoor or similar sites for reviews on working for the company. These aren’t always entirely objective but it’s a good start. They could also ask people in their network who already work for their potential new employer for their views. They should also look at the contract and handbook at the offer stage, which should give a good idea of how things are generally handled. Having few policies can mean things are very much at the manager’s discretion, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the manager. Having overly rigid policies on everything can also be a disadvantage.

4) What should be taken into consideration when deciding to work for either a large publishing house, or a smaller company?

There are pros and cons to both. In a larger publishing house there are likely to be better opportunities for promotion, training and development. But it can be harder to get noticed, and it may well be more competitive. Jobs might also be quite narrow. Smaller companies can be surprisingly good on benefits, but sometimes there aren’t any to speak of. That said, roles tend to be broader and, if the company is growing, you might be able to grow with it, taking on extra responsibility and learning by doing, but the downside might be that a smaller company is also likely to pay less than a larger one for a similar role.

5) As an industry, what have you seen done to improve pay and conditions, that has impressed you?

Some publishers have been really good at creating profit sharing schemes – if the company makes it’s profit target it’s only fair that the staff should benefit from that, especially at a time when inflation is so low and pay awards are too.

Grab your ticket for ‘United, We Publish: Your pay – your say?’ on the 14th July here.

unite

Publishing on the move: unions and the EU referendum

This is a guest post by Douglas Williamson on EU referendum, unions and publishing. Douglas is design manager at Macmillan ELT. He started his career at Butterworth Law Publishers and since then has worked for Longman, HarperCollins and Heinemann Education. He has been a union member from the start, and has just retired from the Unite National Committee for the Graphical, Paper, Media and IT industries.

From where I’m sitting in the London office of my German-owned employer, I can see around me two colleagues from Greece, one from Italy and another from Spain. I’m on a project team where the production controller is Slovakian, the managing editor is Irish and the marketing executive is Polish. Our online English dictionary is managed from Brussels by a Hungarian. Nigel Farage and friends will be disappointed to know that none of them are undermining my terms and conditions, and most of them have joined Unite or the NUJ to help defend employment standards.

As far as the EU referendum is concerned, we ordinary workers will have difficulty verifying the claims and counter-claims of the Stay and Leave campaigns, so our votes might come down to a straightforward affirmation of solidarity with our EU colleagues, and a repudiation of the xenophobia that seems never far below the surface of the Leave case.

The leavers want to repatriate powers from Brussels. You can be sure that high on their target list will be the EU employment protection measures transposed into UK law, such as the Information & Consultation of Employees Regulations, the Working Time Directive, and the Agency Workers Regulations, not to mention environmental protections affecting health and safety at work – ironic, really, when you think that one of the main arguments of the leavers is that EU migrants are a threat to UK employment standards. If we leave, Messrs Gove, Johnson and Grayling will give us better workers’ rights, will they?

Unite the Union is backing continued UK membership of the EU to protect jobs, employment rights and the concept of the social market. But that doesn’t mean unqualified support: Unite, in common with the rest of the trade-union movement and many civil society organisations, is opposed to trade agreements such as CETA and TTIP, currently being negotiated between the EU, Canada and the United States behind closed doors. However, we can only exert influence from within the EU.

The EU finances research into the future prospects of the various industrial sectors, including publishing. Two years ago, using EU funding, the International Federation of Graphical Unions produced a report on the impact of digital publishing on printed media in Europe, entitled ‘Publishing on the move, followed up by an EU-wide conference of worker representatives in the graphical and media industry to plan for an orderly transition between technologies. Unite played a big part in that initiative, and that’s the way we want it to stay.

For more information on trade unionism and publishing, read this brief introduction.

Working in publishing: Unite’s answers to their 15 FAQs

In the run up to, United, We Publish, BookMachine will be featuring a number of posts on employment-related topics such as training, pay, law and flexible working. Here Unite the Union have provided us with answers to their top 15 FAQs.

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Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson to give talk at publishing event

Remember when we told you that the keynote speaker for United, We Publish was yet to be announced? Well today is the day.

Tom Watson, Deputy Labour Leader, will be the keynote speaker at this evening of workshops hosted by Unite in London on Tuesday 27th October.

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Tom was Minister for Digital Engagement in Gordon Brown’s cabinet and is now a member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

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United, We Publish: Sarah Cook interview

In the run up to October’s event, United, We Publish, BookMachine will be featuring a number of opinions on UNITE-focused topics such as training, pay, employment law and flexible working. Sarah Cook has been a Unite officer for 22 years. She has extensive experience of dealing with employment issues including advising and representing individuals and workplace trade union groups, training and developing local workplace representatives, leading campaigns on employment issues and on wider issues in the region.

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