Management and union officials at Guardian News and Media are set to sign a new house agreement that will give all its editorial staff across both newspapers and guardian.co.uk equal rights and privileges for the first time.
Under the agreement, which was agreed on Tuesday after 16 months of negotiations, journalists on the Guardian, Observer and Guardian.co.uk will be covered by the same NUJ agreement ahead of the company’s move to new purpose-built offices at the end of the year.
It is thought to be the first time that staff on a daily and Sunday newspaper and accompanying website have had identical terms and conditions.
Guardian managing editor Chris Elliot said: “We’ve got a good staff, many of whom are doing bits of multimedia. We’ve tried with the union to create a framework where it becomes part of their normal day.
“There is a legitimate concern that some people are working too hard and, yes, we have had instances of people working too hard.
“We’ve got to a get a more natural approach to the audio-visual world where people work normally.”
Elliot said the agreement, the first ‘top-to-toe review’of the house agreement in 30 years, had improved clauses on copyright, grievance and severance and incorporated the ground-breaking multimedia working agreement settled between the NUJ and management last November.
Staff copyright will be retained by the company on all website content, according to the new document.
The discussions over freelance staff and copyright had led management to rethink its policy on writers contributing to rival papers and Elliot said he would be talking to writers in the coming weeks.
A new clause states that the company will not seek to make compulsory redundancies ‘except in dire economic circumstances”.
Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said in a Press Gazette interview last month that he intends to increase the paper’s foreign staff and Elliot said the agreement would pave the way for some of the paper’s work to be done abroad.
‘If you’re working 24/7 and some of you are working in the night, it makes sense to get this work done in India or Washington – but respecting the fact that anyone we hire abroad will have decent terms and conditions,’he said.
Since January last year Elliot, along with Sheila Fitzsimons, the Guardian’s executive editor and Jan Thomson, managing editor of the Observer, has been negotiating with a team of up to seven NUJ officials including the Guardian’s mother of chapel Helene Mulholland and Observer father of chapel Andy Beven.
Beven told Press Gazette it was good deal for both sides. He said: ‘The agreement had not been reworked since 1997 and it did not take into account the Guardian.co.uk set up. A lot of it was about protecting people’s working patterns in light of 24/7 working.”