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PRH to collectively bargain with editorial, publicity staff

Penguin Random House Australia (PRH) has agreed to engage in collective bargaining with staff in its editorial and publicity departments.

Staff have endorsed the bargaining position and the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) will begin bargaining shortly with PRH on behalf of staff. It is estimated that 95% of editorial and publicity staff at PRH (across both its Sydney and Melbourne offices) are now union members, after a swift upswing in membership over the past few months.

Once reached, an agreement between PRH and its staff will be the only MEAA-negotiated agreement currently covering in-house publishing staff in Australia. (Currently, Lonely Planet has an enterprise agreement with its publishing staff, but this agreement was not negotiated by the MEAA.) PRH’s warehouse staff in Australia are covered by an enterprise agreement with the National Union of Workers.

A statement from the editorial and publicity staff at PRH reads:

‘We are extremely pleased that the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance will be bargaining on our behalf and that our employer has agreed to begin negotiating. An Enterprise Bargaining Agreement will enshrine clearer processes, improve job satisfaction and job security, and allow editors and publicists to do what they love best: working on and promoting books. It is a positive step for Penguin Random House and the start of a new chapter for the Australian publishing industry.’

PRH said in a statement:

‘We understand and respect the right of Penguin Random House Australia employees to seek advice from a union, and we are aware that some have chosen recently to do so. In line with our Company Values, we respect the individual views of each employee and together we strive to create a collaborative and supportive workplace and company culture. We will continue to conduct discussions among the parties with confidentiality as we work closely for a mutually positive resolution.’

Last year’s Books+Publishing employment survey found that in 2018 the average salary for full-time editorial staff was $62,347 per year, having grown by 8% from $57,900 in 2013. Marketing and publicity staff salaries have shown little change in five years, with the average full-time salary for this group growing only marginally from $60,100 in 2013 to $60,207 in 2018.

The issue of paid overtime or time in lieu was also a key issue raised by the survey, with 78% of all survey respondents reporting that they work some kind of overtime (18% always work overtime, 31% regularly work overtime and 29% sometimes work overtime).

As the survey report notes: ‘Worryingly, only 7% of book industry employees report being paid for overtime—when combined with the 53% of employees who can take time in lieu, we see that a staggering 40% of employees working overtime are not getting compensated by either being paid or taking time in lieu.’

Under the Book Industry Award, employees are entitled to paid overtime (at the rate of time-and-a-half for the first eight hours in a week and at double time rates thereafter), or they may agree to take time in lieu, which must be governed by a separate agreement.



Category: Local news