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Vice UK staff cancel strike after redundancy terms improve

Press Gazette understands 23 jobs at Vice are at risk of redundancy.

By William Turvill

Update 2, 23 June: Vice UK journalists have called off their planned two-day strike after winning an improved redundancy package.

The National Union of Journalists said the terms had improved from £2,000 and statutory redundancy pay to £50,000 and statutory redundancy pay.

A spokesperson for the Vice UK NUJ chapel said: “Despite its inadequacies, the new package provides some support to those at the most junior levels and lowest salaries, and the NUJ chapel has decided to consider its most vulnerable members at a time of great uncertainty as they begin to look for new work opportunities.

“We are pleased that our actions have persuaded management to offer a more substantial package and hope that our colleagues can now gain further compensation for their hard work and dedication to the company over the years, as they begin to enter their individual consultations.”

Mostafa Rajaai, NUJ organiser, said they hoped to have a “more constructive relationship” with the new owners of the business, a group of lenders who bid for the company with secured debt they hold over it.

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Update 1, 21 June: Journalists at Vice UK will strike for two days this month over “unfair” redundancy terms.

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The National Union of Journalists confirmed staff being made redundant as a result of the company’s financial difficulties have been offered £2,000 and statutory redundancy pay. The NUJ said it is seeking fewer redundancies and an increased pay offer.

The Vice NUJ chapel said: “We believe it is Vice’s moral obligation to give those at risk the redundancy pay that they deserve, at a time of great uncertainty,” noting that those losing their jobs will be entering an “already saturated job market at a time of even greater scarcity”.

The strike will last from 10am on Thursday 29 June until 6.30pm on Friday 30 June.

Original story 9 June: Vice UK’s union chapel is balloting members on whether they would consider strike action in response to the online publisher’s redundancy offers.

Press Gazette understands that 23 jobs at Vice, mostly in video production and post-production, are at risk of redundancy.

On 31 May, the National Union of Journalists revealed that those facing redundancy had been offered “the bare minimum of statutory redundancy pay”. This could have left some outgoing staff with nothing.

Since then Vice’s management, represented by European chief operating officer Katherine Chandler, has held meetings with union reps to negotiate.

[Read more: Digital natives on the ropes: What next for online news publishers?]

Press Gazette understands management offered staff a flat redundancy payout of £2,000 on top to statutory redundancy. This was rejected by the chapel and negotiations are ongoing.

Under UK statutory redundancy rules, employees who have worked at their companies for two years or more receive half a week’s pay for each full year when they were under 22, a full week’s pay for each full year worked between the ages of 22 and 41, and 1.5 week’s pay for each full year completed at the age of 41 or over. Length of service is capped at 20 years and weekly pay is capped at £643.

Vice UK’s latest round of redundancies was announced in late April. In May its US parent company, Vice Media, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said it was in talks to be acquired by its lenders for $225m. In Vice Media’s heyday, private investments valued the company at $5.7bn.

On 31 May, highlighting the statutory redundancy offer, the Vice UK chapel said in a statement that it was “devastated and shocked to learn that not only are dozens of colleagues been placed at risk of redundancy, but that the company is currently only prepared to offer the bare minimum of statutory redundancy pay to those affected.

“Throughout this process, the company has shown little regard for the personal circumstances of many of our colleagues affected, such as staff who are on maternity leave or pregnant, and many who are on lower salaries with less career experience.

“Vice seems determined to send the message that it is a profitable company and will emerge financially healthy from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This process should reflect that, and staff should be paid what they deserve. We implore the company to treat those facing potential redundancy with dignity and respect by offering pay packages that our colleagues deserve.”

Vice’s recent troubles have coincided with challenges at Buzzfeed, which announced the closure of its news division in April. Buzzfeed, at peak, had a private market valuation of $1.7bn. Today the market capitalisation of Buzzfeed, which now incorporates Huffpost and Complex Networks, stands at less than $100m.

Vice did not respond to a request for comment.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
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