Union members at Penguin Random House have voted to accept the new Collective Agreement put forward last month by the publisher, with support said to be “overwhelming” across all parts of the chapel.
The move puts to bed a lengthy process of negotiation between PRH and the National Union of Journalists and Unite that has continued for over a year. It included a very public breakdown of relations last December which saw PRH briefly derecognise the unions for collective bargaining when negotiations to harmonise terms for employees across the Penguin, Random House and Transworld businesses stalled over the thorny issue of redundancy.
In a joint statement following the latest vote, the publisher and unions said: “We’re pleased to confirm the positive ballot result by union members who voted in favour of the new Penguin Random House UK Collective Agreement and Redundancy Guidance. This is an important milestone for Penguin Random House UK and represents the significant progress we have made through constructive and positive negotiations. We look forward to building on this partnership in the future.”
Meanwhile in an email to staff seen by The Bookseller, PRH UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon said: “This means that the new Penguin Random House UK Collective Agreement will take effect immediately, replacing any previous collective agreements that were in place. Under the new collective agreement we will continue to negotiate with the unions on pay, hours and holiday and to recognize the combined NUJ and Unite Union Chapel as one of the bodies representing employees for the purposes of informing and consulting with our workforce. We have established a strong partnership over the past few months and will continue to work together to ensure the best possible relationship between the company and the unions.”
Weldon also confirmed that new redundancy “guidance” would come into effect for all staff from the 1st November.
Attempts to harmonise redundancy arrangements across the PRH businesses became a sticking point in the negotiations last year because of particularly generous terms at Penguin. When Penguin was owned by Pearson, employees were given an entitlement of three months pay plus a month for each year of employment. After the merger, Random House employees had matched the Penguin terms but with a cap of 12 years.
Full details of the new terms were not included in Weldon’s note, but he confirmed that some employees at Penguin Books would have their entitlement either “ring-fenced” or “red-circled”, “out of respect for previous arrangements because we believe it would be unfair to take away a long-standing arrangement that has already been accrued for those colleagues.”
Weldon told staff: "The unions have advised that there was overwhelming support for the proposals across all parts of the chapel," adding: "This is an important milestone for Penguin Random House UK. The path has not been as straightforward as we would have liked but I am proud to have got to where we are today."