The increasingly tense relationship between Fairfax management and the journalists’ union will reach a tipping point early this afternoon, when Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Queensland branch secretary David Watson attempts to meet with staff of the new Fairfax digital operation The Brisbane Times.

The 14 staff of The Brisbane Times are employed under what one MEAA source described as ”bog standard” Australian Workplace Agreements, agreements that annualise shift penalities, curtail parenting leave and reduce sick leave, among other restrictions at odds with the enterprise bargain that covers other Fairfax journalist empoyees.

Fairfax is expected to refuse Watson access to The Brisbane Times site, stating that he is ”not invited or authorised to enter the premises”.

Regardless of the outcome of today’s front-door confrontation, house committees of the major Fairfax mastheads will meet tomorrow via phone hook-up to discuss the latest stage in what some see as a creeping process toward the deunionisation of the Fairfax jourmalist workforce.

While the majority of print journalists are covered by award conditions, some journalists at both theage.com.au and smh.com.au have been hired on common-law contracts, reporting to an on-line journlistic management comprised, according to our man at the MEAA, mainly of ”bloody techno spivs”.

The MEAA source described the mood at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Newcastle Herald as ”pretty worked up” and could not predict the outcome of tomorrow’s meetings if Fairfax stood by its exclusion of Watson in Brisbane.

”These things take on a life of their own,” he said, ”and there are a lot of pretty angry people at Fairfax.”