Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:

Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald
strikers returned to work this morning, after about 500 of them had
walked off the job on Wednesday, dissatisfied with how pay negotiations
were being handled by management. “People have made their point to
management,” a Fairfax insider told Crikey. “We expect talks will
resume in the new year.”

With approximately 70 Fairfax editorial staff (representing 7% of editorial positions at the SMH, Sun-Herald, The Age and The Sunday Age)
preparing to leave with redundancy packages, remaining staff are now
left to cope with the simmering resentment that’s permeating the
mastheads. There have been “no pay rises for the past six years,” our
insider told us. “They claim that senior people get paid merit money,”
but many never see it. Some people haven’thad a pay increase for the past ten years.”

Another insider has told Crikey that with union membership at the Financial Review the weakest of any Fairfax masthead, “most AFR staff failed to attend a stop work meeting on Wednesday when the SMH
strike was called.” Sources tell us that this was partly because few
people “actually knew the stop work meeting had been called.”

Yesterday, a makeshift stop work meeting was called on the floor of the AFR
Sydney office to discuss the strike by colleagues. Initially, Fairfax
Business Media publisher Michael Gill refused to authorise the meeting,
saying he didn’t believe there was much support for the SMH action.
But a “unanimous vote by around 90 staff at the Sydney office gave lie
to this claim,” says our source. Most workers supported the SMH strike and “condemned the company’s pay offer.”

Fairfax took the matter to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission yesterday
in a bid to end the action, which is unprotected because the parties
aren’t currently in a bargaining period, and staff were ordered back to
work. The current EBA with journalists is scheduled to expire next June.

As
for the people who are leaving on redundancy packages, they fear for
the sinking ship that they’re leaving behind. “15 to 20% of the Herald
have gone in the last 18 months,” says our insider. “And there’s
nothing being put on to say farewell to the people who are leaving,
some of whom have been here for over twenty years, just a few beers at
the pub over the road.”