News Ltd union types and the Media, Entertainment & Arts
Alliance (MEAA) are still a little puzzled about a suddenly more
friendly industrial environment in the Murdoch empire’s Australian
newspaper operations.

Today’s MEAA newsletter only includes the following:

News Ltd Agreement Accepted – Members at News Ltd have unanimously approved the
proposed enterprise agreement. The company has put the agreement on the company
intranet and members will be asked at meetings, beginning 22 August, to formally
accept the document for certification in the AIRC. News Ltd has indicated it
will process back pay and the new rates once members have voted to approve,
rather than wait for certification.

What it doesn’t say is that there was hardly any argy bargy this year
as News Ltd came to the table offering an 18-month extension of the
enterprise agreement with guaranteed 4% annual pay rises. In previous
negotiations News Ltd only offered 2.5% and then the union eked this up
to 3% after some tough exchanges.

So why the change of approach? There are four main theories and the truth is probably a combination:

  • Lachlan Murdoch loves the Australian culture in News Ltd and
    decided to reward his local hacks as a farewell present after his dad
    moved the company to America and resolved to dramatically crank up
    executive options and bonuses. This is unlikely.
  • News Corp might choose to sell its Australian papers after media
    ownership laws are overhauled and the company wants a stable industrial
    environment during this process. Yeah, maybe.
  • Strikes could break out across the economy if the Howard
    Government pushes ahead with its ambitious industrial relations changes
    and News Corp doesn’t want its Australian newspapers to be dragged into
    what could be a volatile environment. Believable.
  • Profits are up in Australia as advertising booms so there was no real need to screw down on the workers. Sounds plausible.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey