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June 10, 2015updated 11 Jun 2015 1:49pm

NUJ says Rotherham Advertiser has withdrawn redundancy threat against long-serving union rep

The Rotherham Advertiser has withdrawn the threat of redundancy against long-serving union rep Phil Turner, according to the National Union of Journalists.

The move comes after an appeal hearing against the redundancy decision which was held yesterday. NUJ members at the weekly title have voted to hold a 24-hour strike tomorrow (Thursday) in protest against the proposed sacking of Turner.

The NUJ said that the strike has now been called off, though it is unclear whether Turner will remain at the paper.

A spokesman for the company said: "It would be inappropriate for us to comment at this stage, as was agreed with the union, and we would suggest this agreement is abided by. We will comment further when it becomes apparent what is actually happening.”

The weekly title, owned by the same family for over a century, was sold to former Garnett Dickinson Group chief executive Nick Alexander in March for an undisclosed sum.

After a redundancy consultation, one journalist out of 14 editorial staff was singled out. Turner is the National Union of Journalists Father of the Chapel at the paper and a reporter with 30 years’ experience at the company.

NUJ members, who Press Gazette understands comprise 94 per cent of the Advertiser’s editorial staff, maintain that they did not agree with the redundancy selection process.

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Advertiser journalists voted unanimously in favour of strike action on 28 May.

On Saturday 6 June, according to the NUJ, around 250 people gathered in All Saints Square in Rotherham town centre to call for Turner to be reinstated.

Members of the Rotherham Advertiser NUJ chapel have voted to cancel tomorrow’s strike.

According to the NUJ, as part of the settlement to end the dispute – the company has agreed to sign a new chapel "house agreement" with the NUJ.

Turner said: “I am truly grateful for all the support and solidarity that has been shown to both me and the chapel. It has been a difficult time but this fortified me and helped us come to a proper conclusion. I am sure that all this support was crucial in bringing about this outcome.”

NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “Common sense has broken out and I am pleased that the dismissal of Phil has been properly overturned with no new selection for compulsory redundancy now taking place among journalists.

“The chapel had always opposed the job loss, well before it was known that Phil was the intended target, but once it was clear he was being forced out, a good deal of anxiety about the company’s intentions to the union was generated. I’m glad that the company has had the good sense to think again about this whole issue and put its relations with the NUJ once again on a firm and positive footing. I welcome the pragmatic approach displayed by the company in this regard.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the huge groundswell of solidarity for Phil and the NUJ during this dispute. It really did make a difference. There were calls in some quarters to boycott the Advertiser because of its actions against Phil. I wish to make it absolutely clear that this was never advocated by Phil, the chapel or the NUJ and we urge local people to now get behind the paper to help it and its journalists to a successful future.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "The huge groundswell of support for Phil from the local community and wider trade union movement is a testament to the concern people had at a union rep being seemingly singled out. It is also a testament to the loyalty readers have for their local journalists and their local newspaper.

“Now that we have agreed to sign a new house agreement with management, I hope that relations between Nick Alexander, the union and staff will be constructive. We all want the same end; a bright future for the Rotherham Advertiser.”

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