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Al Jazeera English staff accept two-year pay deal ending four-year wage freeze ahead of planned strike action

By Charlotte Tobitt

Al Jazeera English staff have voted to accept a two-year pay deal worth more than 9 per cent after going four years without a raise.

Staff at Al Jazeera’s London bureau received the offer last week just days before planned 24-hour strike action, which would have been followed by an indefinite withdrawal of goodwill if it had gone ahead.

Representatives of the National Union of Journalists and media union BECTU met with management through the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service on 4 May.

Negotiations lasted more than seven hours with the unions saying significant progress had been made. Staff have been trying to push for a pay rise since unionising four years ago.

Al Jazeera offered staff a two-year pay deal with a consolidated pay increase of 6 per cent, backdated to 1 January 2018, and an increase of 3 per cent as of 1 January 2019.

Yesterday NUJ members voted by 84 per cent to accept the offer and 92 per cent of BECTU members also backed it.

The Al Jazeera NUJ chapel said in a statement: “This deal shows what can be done when employees get organised.

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“Four years after we won union recognition, NUJ and BECTU members standing together have finally convinced management at Al Jazeera English that we will not continue to allow a pay freeze to erode our standard of living.

“The hardworking staff at Al Jazeera English thoroughly deserve this rise, which was secured by their solidarity and the support of the unions.”

Both unions said they hoped the offer was proof that Al Jazeera will now take the collective bargaining process, and its relationship with the unions, seriously.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, added: “This is an important shift in relations with Al Jazeera and one we hope means that the collective bargaining process will run more smoothly in future.

“Members have voted overwhelmingly to accept the pay deal on offer, and we are pleased to have resolved the dispute.”

Gerry Carr, BECTU assistant national secretary, described it as a “historic breakthrough”.

“While the company signed a voluntary recognition agreement with BECTU and the NUJ in April 2014, it refused to engage constructively in collective pay bargaining,” he said.

“That resistance was shattered by the unity of the membership of both unions when they voted strongly in favour of industrial action in April.

“It’s unfortunate that the industrial action route was the only one left open to us but now is the time to move forward together. Our hope is that a new and more positive chapter in industrial relations will result at Al Jazeera English.”

Picture: Reuters/Naseem Zeitoon 

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