After months of negotiations and some industrial action, Fairfax’s union members have finally agreed with management on a enterprise bargaining agreement; they will swallow lousy pay in order to guarantee the continuation of key conditions.

Fairfax staff will take a smaller-than-inflation guaranteed pay rise of 2% a year for the next two years. But they do get to keep automatic progression through the lower grades of the EBA (ensuring junior journos get a pay rise of 5%-10% a year as they move through the grades). Journos have also kiboshed a management attempt to not award the same generous redundancy provisions to new staff, along with an attempt to change normal work hours.

“The pay deal is terrible — there’s no attempt to sugar-coat that,” a Fairfax source told us. Nonetheless, the conditions saved could mean a lot more to junior staff, of which the company has taken on a significant number in recent months.

Another win for journos is the establishment of a council of staff and management. This body will meet regularly and give staff an insight into how the company is going and allow them, ideally, to have some say in how it changes.

But significant anger remains in the newsroom over what the journos perceive as an unequal sharing of the cost of changing the company. Journos say they work harder, more quickly, and in smaller newsrooms than they used to, but executives have denigrated their commitment while awarding themselves huge  bonusesCrikey understands a significant number of journalists wanted to reject the offer and take further industrial action. But the majority feared the loss of the conditions they had managed to save.

The resolution passed gave expression to this anger:

“We condemn the reckless greed demonstrated in recent weeks by senior management, the top four of whom awarded themselves a $2.4 million pay rise — more than a cost of living wage rise for our entire staff. In contrast, our unity and restraint demonstrates our concern for the future of Fairfax, not a new sports car.”

The EBA will now pass to an all-staff vote, before being submitted to Fair Work Australia for approval.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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