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Buzzfeed UK journalists make a move towards union recognition

By Freddy Mayhew

Buzzfeed UK journalists have taken the first step in forming a union chapel, prompting the US company’s chief executive to fly in for discussions with staff later this month.

Editorial staff at the online news brand, which has about 80 staff in London, have asked for representation under the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

A letter sent to editor-in-chief Janine Gibson on 25 November from the NUJ outlined a request collective-bargaining purposes for staff.

It said: “We are hopeful you will see this as a positive and productive step in the long-term development of Buzzfeed UK.

“Your staff are very keen to emphasise they all enjoy working for Buzzfeed UK, and believe in building a sustainable business with you.”

The move has prompted a response from boss Jonah Peretti that was emailed to staff and subsequently published by Buzzfeed.

He claimed the company’s chief people officer, Lenke Taylor, has been working with the editorial team in the US to improve a number of elements.

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These included: “Clarity of job titles, career paths, compensation benchmarking, benefits, diversity initiatives, and securing additional budget to fund these programs”.

Peretti said the company was “in the process of extending this to the UK when we received the union letter” and asked to speak directly with staff before “any irreversible decisions” were made.

He said: “In the past, I’ve said I don’t think a union is in the best interests of BuzzFeed or our employees.

“Unions represent employees around a rigid skillset that doesn’t reflect the fluid and flexible way we work, they introduce an extra layer of bureaucracy and process, and they unnecessarily divide our teams, limiting the many benefits of everyone being part of a venture backed tech company.

“Some outside activists have criticized my motives or my character but I want all of you to know that my top two priorities are serving 1) the public, and 2) the people who work at BuzzFeed.”

He added: “Before any decision is made, it is incredibly important to me that I have a direct line of communication with all of you, that I know about any concerns, complaints, or suggestions for improvement you have, and that we can speak openly and directly with each other.”

Earlier this year Vice News was accused of “old-fashioned union-busting” by offering membership of a staff association as an alternative to calls for union recognition.

Picture: Reuters

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