Category Archives: publishing

We’re joining forces to defend jobs, pay and conditions in book & journal publishing

NUJ book branch

The Oxford branch of the NUJ has been teaming up with the NUJ Book branch to highlight issues of concern to members working in the sector. Most recently, we have joined forces to profile how publishers’ responses to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic is impacting on the pay, hours, and job security of our members. This report, which was published in edited form in the June edition of the NUJ Branch News, was compiled by Catherine Brereton, (NEC Books rep job share), Helen Weir (Book branch committee), and Eleanor Connor (Oxford branch committee). The information comes from reports from members. Use of logos does not indicate the information comes from company sources.


There are 700+ NUJ members working in the Books sector. Since the start of the pandemic, Book Branch (600+ members) has seen a boost in attendance at Branch meetings, with remote meeting proving a success.

It’s been good to see new faces. People are obviously worried about their working conditions and jobs and perhaps having an online meeting makes it easier fo rmore to attend. It’s been good to make contact and has enabled us to monitor the situation in publishing.

There have been equality implications of the health crisis and of lockdown: both are disproportionately affecting different groups according to ethnicity, age, gender, disability and other health factors, class, and family/caring responsibilities. Gathering more information about members’ experiences will inform what activists can do to help them.

Through members sharing a wealth of useful information about their experiences, the branch is tracking the response of different employers and the situation on the ground in different workplaces. The branch is tracking issues such as pay cuts, furlough, cuts in hours, holiday – and how these measures are being implemented – as well as workload, health and safety while working from home, working alongside childcare or other caring responsibilities, mental health, and concerns about the future return to work.

Some workplace examples highlight the picture across the publishing industry: Almost all companies have placed at least some staff on furlough and introduced pay cuts of one kind or another.

pan macmillan cropped

Pan Macmillan (where there is no union recognition, but a new chapel is currently being formed) is unusual in its decision to put almost no one on furlough, instead opting for a range of staggered voluntary pay cuts (for those earning over £32,000) coupled with a reduction in working hours for everyone (to a 4.5 day week). All staff who were on fixed-term contracts due to expire have had their contracts extended to the end of the year. Regular communication has been kept up about measures being taken and plans for the future. For example, staff have been assured that when lockdown measures are eased there will be no hot-desking and hygiene will be paramount.

penguin random house

PRH (Penguin Random House, recognised – NUJ and Unite joint chapel) has also kept in frequent contact with staff – webinars are held every other week with the CEO. PRH as a whole has agreed to furlough terms suggested by the NUJ with almost no amendments requested. However, although it was originally agreed that furlough would be voluntary, in practice some staff are not being given a choice. A long-planned office move is still going ahead, although no one will be moving into it as yet, and staff have been assured that the office will not open until July at the earliest.

hachette cropped

At Hachette (no union recognition), staff being furloughed are mainly at the assistant level and are taking turns. This year’s annual all-staff pay review was cancelled. All furloughed staff are on full pay, and the company gave reassurance that the scheme is a means to preserve jobs, and do not imply that these jobs are less valued by the company.


At Faber (recognised NUJ chapel), around 40% of staff are furloughed at any one time, with departments alternating and adjustments being made every three weeks. Risk assessments are being arranged for home working. Board members have taken pay cuts, and summer hours have been cancelled, along with bonuses and pay increases. There is a feeling that management are being open and transparent in the measures they need to take, including an admission that they need to cut costs as much as possible for survival, but nonetheless morale is suffering and many are feeling overworked. Non-furloughed staff are being awarded one extra day of holiday to compensate for the extra stress.

verso  pluto press

Other independents like Verso and Pluto (recognised NUJ chapels) are placing many staff members on furlough while instigating scaled pay cuts. The Verso chapel is in the process of achieving recognition and is being treated as de facto recognised, which is proving productive. Despite the financial difficulties Pluto is facing, it has awarded staff a £50 per month pay rise to compensate for any extra equipment people have to purchase for home working.


Bloomsbury (no chapel) has taken various measures, including a staggered pay cut scheme for everyone earning over £30,000 along with a small reduction in working hours. The annual all-staff pay review happened in February just before lockdown. Communication was initially patchy but lately improved, with the introduction of monthly town hall meetings.

lonely planet

At the worst end of the spectrum, Lonely Planet (no chapel) announced in the face of this crisis that it is shutting its London and Melbourne operations almost entirely, including its London-based children’s book publisher. Despite efforts to negotiate some kind of compromise, this is going ahead, with numerous staff including several NUJ members being made redundant.

At Oxford publishers…

WIley cropped

Wiley (no recognition) is expecting almost all staff to carry out existing work from home, with discretionary flexibility regarding childcare and other responsibilities falling on individual managers. This is seen as largely successful and the company has foreshadowed intentions to reduce real estate costs internationally with the introduction of more home working, though the implications of this are still unclear.

OUP cropped

OUP (derecognised, Unite) have added a clause to the contract for all staff who earn £30,000 or above (full-time equivalent) stating that hours and pay may be cut by up to 20%. This clause can be enforced at any point – management aim to give 2 weeks’ notice but this is not mandatory – and, once implemented, will be in effect until 31st March 2021. Staff are concerned that there has been little discussion of exactly how the measures would be implemented or how this would impact workload and targets, despite the fact that roughly 2/3 of UK employees earn above the £30K threshold.

T&F cropped

Taylor & Francis (recognised NUJ chapel) have taken a range of measures in response to the pandemic. All offices were closed towards the end of March, with staff instructed to work from home. Office equipment for home use is available at request, either via delivery or pre-arranged pick-up. T&F Management expect that the majority of staff may be working from home until September, although there are plans in place for the reopening of some offices at reduced capacity. Cost-cutting measures include a hiring-freeze, promotion suspensions, and temporary pay cuts for the Executive Leadership Team. Management have also implemented a resource redeployment programme, which has allowed staff in quieter departments to be temporarily seconded to teams with higher workloads. The Chapel has agreed to a temporary suspension of the right to carry holiday days over in 2021. No staff have been placed on furlough and no proposals have yet been made for wide-scale pay cuts or reductions to working hours. The NUJ workplace reps are in regular contact (virtually) with both members and HR/management.

Redundancies in the sector could be looming. A survey published last month by the Bookseller found that more than half of the UK’s small publishers fear they could be out of business by the autumn; bookshop sales have been severely affected by lockdown. The Bookseller also reported that publishers, such as HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, are exploring staff returning to their offices in autumn.

We need to ensure that members are equipped to face the challenging months ahead – that their health and safety at work is paramount and that we at the NUJ resist any threats to working conditions and to jobs themselves.


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Why we’re standing with the UCU

UCU members on a picket line outside Oxford University Exam Halls.

UCU picket at Oxford University, February 2018. Photo: A K M Adam, Creative Commons via Flickr.

The Oxford & District branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) stands in support of members of the University and College Union (UCU) who are currently undertaking 14 days of strike action. We applaud UCU members for standing together against proposed detrimental changes to their pension scheme, and for fighting back against low pay, inequality, excessive workloads and precarious employment conditions.

Many of our members within the academic publishing sector work closely with those who are directly affected and are gravely concerned about the deteriorating working conditions within higher education.

In sending our full solidarity to the UCU the Oxford & District NUJ will be making a donation to the UCU strike fund, and will be asking members to participate in solidarity actions during any further strikes.

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A review of 2019, and lessons for the coming year

NUJ members sitting around a large table having a discussion.

Branch members discuss the challenges of working in publishing with Book Branch rep Anna Herve.

2019 was a busy year for our branch. Branch secretary Anna Wagstaff seeks to draw some conclusions to guide our direction in 2020.

From active campaigning to behind-the-scenes support, we’ve been working to be a voice for journalists and journalism in Oxford: campaigning for transparency in public services and better-resourced local media, raising the profile of the publishing sector within the NUJ, and supporting members struggling with overwork and stress.

What worked well, what didn’t and what should we follow up in 2020? Continue reading

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We’re talking about why we work excessive hours and how to stop

Head and shoulders photo of Eleanor Connor.Many people working in publishing find themselves doing excessive overtime on a regular basis. And because Oxford is a publishing hub, this is an issue that affects many of our members. Branch member Eleanor Connor explains how we have started to tackle the problem.

Overwork is a major issue in publishing, but few of us actually talk about it. We thought we should. We wanted to create a space in which we could share experiences with colleagues across the sizeable publishing industry in this area, as a first step to working out ways to address the problem.

Continue reading

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Ideas for strengthening NUJ organisation in books and journals

bill mackeithHow can NUJ activists and organisers strengthen union organisation in  book & journal publishing, and achieve a stronger profile within the NUJ?

The following notes represent the results of conversations between members of the Oxford branch committee and the Taylor & Francis chapel committee. They formed the basis of a talk given by Bill MacKeith at the London Book Branch meeting, 11 October 2018. We encourage members working in the sector to take a look and to comment. We see greater collaboration as key, and hope this contribution can help open up an inclusive discussion.

You can leave a comment at the end, or contact us directly at

NUJ Book Branch talk on Organising in Books, notes, 11 October 2018

Need for the best resources

Need for updated resources/campaign and tailored templates aimed at the books/journals sector on key issues:

  • recruitment,
  • improving pay
  • improving pensions
  • equality
  • gender pay gap
  • stress and workload/staffing levels
  • health and safety
  • maternity/paternity
  • mental health awareness

Find a collaborative way of addressing that, by at least having a central resource centre where campaign/recruitment materials that chapels have already prepared (e.g. the T&F leaflet on the gender pay gap) can be uploaded and accessed by others

Possibility of doing a cheap and cheerful recruitment video aimed at this sector – could be just people from different book/journal chapel saying why they joined, why they are glad they did etc.

A profile for academic publishing

Academic publishing should have much more of a profile within the NUJ, so it looks as if ‘the NUJ knows know academic publishing and the current issues’ in the way that we clearly know journalism. The content of this would need chapel input, particularly in terms of defining the big current professional issues and how they feed in to industrial issues (e.g. working out how the digitalisation of every aspect of publishing impacts on old recruitment divisions and also gender pay/status gaps; earlier examples include impact of Open Access on investment in editorial quality, and also impact of contracting out and race to the bottom on quality). Chapels need to define the issue, but it is up to the leadership and The Journalist (!) to give more visibility to them.

Building collaboration between our chapels

It’s all about building an effective collaboration around these issues between chapel committees in the sector (particularly within academic publishing). The new Books NEC members could be important in helping this happen. Also, important to build direct links with the Springer Nature chapel, and other active academic publishing chapels (like Lexis Nexis maybe?)

Publishing Alliance 

We should look into setting up some sort of (working title) ‘Publishing Alliance’ where all the active NUJ and also Unite book/journal chapels can campaign publicly on chosen issues (also with Society of Young Publishers/ Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders), maybe starting with the gender pay gap. Could be one way of building a profile for the NUJ in academic publishing.

Who can we recruit?

Who can and cannot join? This is a source of much friction and people see it as arbitrary, because a lot of sales and IT work involves making editorial-type judgements and understanding things from an editorial perspective. You cannot separate them. When commissioning editors attend book fairs, they are sales persons. We need to be more flexible with the interpretation of NUJ eligibility criteria. Would be good for book/journal chapels to suggest guidelines and see if they do or do not fit within the current rulebook. Alternatively propose a rule change.

A more secure and up to date way of handling membership information
[GDPR issues have since been addressed]

Present system is not GDPR compliant.

More important, an M/FoC should be able to welcome each new member in the Chapel into the NUJ community.

T&F Chapel has submitted evidence to Michelle Stanistreet on this.


Absolutely essential to have a programme of NUJ education. Such a programme, according to the T&F MoC, has transformed the chapel, it has been inspirational, building confidence and boldness in the chapel and its officers and representatives.

T&F Chapel speak very highly of NUJ trainer Caroline Holmes, who has delivered training to some 8-11 NUJ reps at T&F.

Book Branch could organise a series of NUJ training sessions for book reps and M/FoCs in the London area.

Training courses could include courses on:

  • Running a Chapel
  • Running campaigns in your Chapel
  • representing members
  • negotiating
  • pensions etc.

Chapel organisation

  • T&F have monthly meetings
  • Training of reps central (see Training above).
  • Have appointed NUJ reps department by department.
  • T&F, in addition to the annual round of pay negotiations, organise around issues which they raise with management. They have task forces of members working on the following:
    • Equality and diversity
    • Stress and workload
    • Recruitment and communications
    • Pensions

Branch meetings

Locate for convenience of important groups of members
Time/day ditto
Time agenda to fit with Chapel reps/members not staying for whole meeting
Take Chapel reports early in agenda.

Magazine and Book Industrial Council

Responsible according to the NUJ rulebook for:

  • Overseeing industrial matters in the 2 sectors
  • Training
  • Oversight of the work of the servicing officers.

Big victory for Springer/Nature recognition.

Note some MABIC activities in the past: recruitment and bullying leaflets, pay and conditions Broadsheet with agreements in at least 30 Chapels, full oversight of claims and agreements

One way forward is closer working between workplace, Branch, MABIC and NEC members, and the full-time officials Fiona Swarbrick and a.n.other (replacement for second organiser in Magazine and Books needed).


Among leaflets needed is one for potential student members that is books-specific that says Why You Should Join the NUJ/What’s in it for you?

Working with Unite

  • Experience varied: Penguin, Macmillan, Pearson, OUP experiences
  • Lessons from Penguin? Generally very good experience.

New media

Effective use of new media to be explored

BM 11.10.18


Bill’s background

  • Penguin 1970-75
  • Elsevier Publishing Projects/Phaidon/Musterlin 1976-90
  • p/t Macmillan Dictionary of Art, Economist Intelligence Unit 1990-94
  • freelance: OUP, Pearson, Routledge, Minority Rights Unit, etc.1994-

Union positions: ASTMS Publishing 516 Branch committee, ASTMS negotiating team at Penguin, 1971-5. Founding chair Oxford ASTMS Publishing branch 1976-8. Oxford NUJ branch member since 1978, chapel officer EPP and Musterlin 1985-91; MABIC member and sometimes chair 1980- ; Oxford branch or MABIC delegate to national delegate meeting, 1978- ; member and currently chair NUJ Appeals Tribunal 2008-


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Stuck in the doldrums: notes from a freelance editor

Drawing of a person sitting in a huge rut in the ground.IT IS NOT just newspaper publishers that are cutting costs and seeing quality drop: this is becoming prevalent across many sectors within the NUJ. A branch member with long experience in educational publishing reports on the issues facing freelance editors. Continue reading

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Making journalism pay in the digital age – a networking event

Thursday July 3rd, 7,00pm, upstairs in the St Aldates Tavern,
Opposite Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates


An open networking event for journalists and would-be journalists working online and/or in broadcasting and print, as reporters, feature writers, photo/video-journalists, editors, PRs, designers, bloggers, front-end developers and more.


This is the second in our new-style branch meetings which aim to be more informal and inclusive, and follows a very successful June meeting where we piloted the new format.

Tim Dawson, chair of the NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council, who writes regularly for a range of national newspapers and magazines including the Sunday Times, New Statesman and Times Education Supplement, blogs at and is co-publisher of, will present a short overview of some of the innovative ways journalists are using the internet and digital media to find new ways of working, and new ways to promote themselves and earn a living from what they do.

Steven Mathieson, a freelance member of the Oxford NUJ branch who has spent many years on the Guardian, specialising in information technology in healthcare and government, will talk about his experiences using the internet to reach a wider audience, build his profile, gather information, advertise his book CardDeclined, and crowdfund his reporting on the Ends of Britain via the Beacon journalism platform. He will set out why he thinks raising money from subscriptions is a more workable model than advertising for sustaining quality journalism.

We will also have contributions from Sonja Francis the editor of, who moved from a background in local newspapers to set up the web-based news service, as well as from members who started off on the web development side and are now looking to expand into creating content.

If you have experiences good or bad in using digital media to earn money from journalism – offering web-based services or using the internet to boost your profile, find new clients, network within your specialist area, gather information – please come to the meeting and share them. If you are looking for tips and advice on getting started, or maybe for opportunities to collaborate, then this is the place to be.

The meeting is open to all NUJ members, whatever media sector you work in.

If you are not a member but are interested in joining or learning more about the union and getting started in journalism, you can apply to attend the meeting by sending an email to subject line ˂making journalism pay˃


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We’re standing up for book/journal publishing workers

Publishing workers in Oxford will be aware their pay is among the lowest earned by graduates, they know about the unfair pay discrepancies, the long hours culture, and that being valued and treated with respect at work is heavily dependent on having a competent and supportive line manager. What many of them don’t know, however, is that this sector used to be a better place to work – and could be again.

We in the Oxford NUJ branch want to make that happen. We are reaching out to everyone working in publishing in Oxford to join us in this quest. Specifically, we are looking to work with the Society of Young Publishers and Unite to get publishing workers talking to one another about how to get the most out of the work we do. We are interested in how we can all work together to ensure that, in this period of rapid change:

  • Publishing remains a place where traditional values of creativity, diversity and quality are valued and rewarded
  • The expanding areas of multimedia and digital publishing enhance and add value to content, but don’t become the main drivers
  • Everyone gets the opportunity expand their skills and exploit the new career opportunities opening up
  • The people who do the work have an effective say over both their terms and conditions and professional aspects of their work and working environment.

We don’t want to talk about turning the clock back. We do want to talk about some of the valuable things that have been lost, and how we can regain them. And we want to open up a discussion with everyone working in Oxford’s publishing industry about priorities and what we can achieve by working together.


Aside from Oxford University Press, which is bound up with the earliest days of printing in the city, much of Oxfordshire’s publishing industry today is based on companies that relocated here in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Companies like Butterworth Scientific (now part of Elsevier in Kidlington), Heinemann (relocated to Elsevier’s Harcourt site in Jordan Hill, Summertown, but now part of Pearson at the same site) and Routledge (now part of Taylor & Francis in Didcot) had some of the best organised chapels in the NUJ, and had negotiated good terms and conditions for their members over a period of many years. But as most of the staff chose not to make the move to Oxford (thanks in part to generous redundancy agreements they had negotiated!), the chapels were hugely weakened. Managements took the opportunity to terminate the union agreements, and as a direct result they have been able to systematically increase workloads while pushing down real pay and driving down terms and conditions.

A salary survey conducted in 2006 at Harcourt (then part of Reed Elsevier, now Pearson) –  showed that salary levels had dropped from around 80% of average white collar earnings in 1991 to less than 60%. The concept of being paid ‘the rate for the job’,  with transparency about grades and negotiated pay scales, has been replaced by schemes ostensibly linking pay to performance, which seem to be designed to squeeze the most they can from each employee while concealing what are often significant and unjustifiable pay discrepancies between people doing similar work. The general workplace culture has also changed for the worse.  Where once working lives were organised by negotiation and agreement, roles and responsibilities were clear, hours were specified, today it can feel as if there are no limits to what can be demanded of you and what you can be held responsible for.

Before Butterworth Scientific was bought by Reed Elsevier and relocated to Oxford to it had transparent pay scales that were negotiated annually along with contractual hours, rates for voluntary overtime and more. The same was true for Heinemann, Routledge and Macmillan. The starting salary of £13,564 shown here for an editorial assistant (Grade 6) is worth £22,176 in today’s money – well above the starting salary currently paid by Elsevier. We don’t call that progress.


butterworth pay 1990048

Transparent, negotiated salary scales, like these featured in the 1990-1991 NUJ Annual Survey of House Agreements in Book and Magazine Publishers, meant people were paid according to the job they did and the responsiblity they had, rather than a secret figure based on what the company felt it could get away with



We’ve spent time in recent weeks discussing members of our book chapels, with members of the Society of Young Publishers and with Unite activists about a broad, inclusive initiative exploring what we can do to make publishing in Oxford a better place to work. These talks have resulted in a preliminary suggestion for a series of high-profile events that we build for within all the big publishing workplaces in the area, possibly starting this September, which will now be further discussed by the constituent groups to make sure it reflects key interests and concerns of their members and can capture their enthusiasm.

Watch this space for the finalised proposals, which we hope will be ready by the end of April.

If you work in books and journals publishing in the Oxfordshire area, as a staff or freelance, in any capacity, this is about you and your work. We would love you to get involved and contribute your own  ideas and help shape and organise this unique and long overdue initiative.  Contact us at

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Battle for the book sector: branch meeting, Thursday

Our branch meeting this coming week (Thursday 13 February) will focus on Oxford’s publishing sector. Fiona Swarbrick, NUJ national organiser for magazines and books, will lead a discussion on rebuilding unions across Oxford’s book (also journal, digital and multimedia) publishers.

Oxford is a seat of education, academia and book lovers. Yet most of the publishers now based here relocated to the area in the past 20 years, derecognising the NUJ as they came, as part of a bid to drive down pay and conditions. Butterworth, Heinemann, Macmillan and Routledge moved here from London or the Home Counties, resulting in the break up of some of the best organised chapels in the union. A salary survey we did in 2006 at Harcourt (now Pearson), which incorporated Heinemann, showed that salaries had dropped from around 80% of average white collar earnings in 1990 to less than 60%. Hard won terms and conditions that seem barely believable in today’s climate were stripped away. A culture of stress, overwork and in some cases bullying emerged. We want to right that wrong.

Come to our meeting on Thursday 13th February at Oxford Town Hall, 7pm. We’ll be discussing how we can improve pay and conditions in the publishing sector. This is a branch initiative, which should involve raising our public profile in relation to book publishing, so everyone who cares about the issue can get involved. Please come and join the discussion.

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How we built a chapel of 70+ at Macmillan Basingstoke

Ruth tellis croppedThis is a time of great change and uncertainty in the publishing industry. No one knows this better than staff working at Macmillan’s operations in Oxford and Basingstoke, which are in the process of being relocated to London, as the company restructures and rebrands itself as primarily a “service provider” rather than traditional “publisher”.

Here Ruth Tellis, who recently took over as Mother of Chapel at Palgrave Macmillan, describes how staff responded by building a joint chapel of more than 70 members at the Basingstoke site, and what they have achieved so far.

Many of those of you reading this blog will know more about the history of unionism at Macmillan than me but there has been a strong tradition in the past. Chapels existed at Oxford, NPG (where Annette Thomas our CEO was Mother of Chapel), and at Basingstoke, both NUJ and Unite, representing warehouse and distribution staff. Unfortunately complacency set in over the years and the Basingstoke NUJ chapel disbanded.

In November 2011 came the shock announcement that Macmillan planned to close the Oxford office and the publishing functions in Basingstoke and relocate to expanded offices at Kings Cross as part of the Regents place development.  This is to be called the Macmillan London Campus and the move/change was branded as ‘Next Chapter’.

Affected staff were informed in mass meetings that there would be a job for everyone in London, but most staff faced a 1.5- to 2-hour commute to the new offices.

At the time of announcement, with the intervening closure/relocation of the warehouse and distribution functions, just a handful each of Unite and NUJ members were left in Basingstoke including Emily Lawrence and Steve Chilmead.

Emily co-ordinated and arranged an open meeting at a local pub, inviting speakers – Fiona Swarbrick from NUJ and Doug Williamson from the Oxford joint chapel.  The meeting was well attended, and it was agreed that an attempt should be made to set up a union in Basingstoke.

At the first open meeting on the premises, a committee was elected.  We quickly set up a website and began recruitment. The committee was really well supported both by Fiona, and Louisa Bull from Unite, with local training, including how to set up the chapel, recruitment and representing members.

Of particular use for recruitment was physically mapping members on the site identifying gaps in membership and using our members’ networks to reach out.  We held a lot of small departmental meetings (with cake!), presenting the union in these friendship groups.

This recruitment drive has resulted in 70-80 new members. We have regular meetings, and a seat on the existing Macmillan I & C [statutory Information and Consultation] group. The I&C reps do a great job, but the union have been able to provide more systematic feedback to the company’s plans by providing survey data and timely group feed back, as well as precedent and legal advice from the full-time officials.  The Union has sought to ensure that the redundancy and relocation terms are fair and consistent, and have had particular input into the flexible working arrangements and implementation of travel expenses over two years from the move.

Since the formation of the chapel early in 2012, Emily Lawrence has left the company, our replacement MoC Lynda Thompson, is also leaving us soon to have a baby and I am the new MoC.

Macmillan have unfortunately refused to recognise the chapel and with the looming relocation, unstable bargaining unit and following advice from the Union legal reps we have decided not to pursue local recognition.

Our aim now is to work towards a chapel for the new campus in London, working together with members of the Nature Publishing Group chapel and the members of the Oxford Macmillan joint chapel, who are in the process of moving to London. We also plan to form a new Unite chapel for the 100+ non publishing staff who will remain in Basingstoke.

We are looking forward to having the opportunity to represent our members in the future.

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