Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hachette offers enhanced settlement for Chambers staff
27.10.09 Catherine Neilan in The Bookseller

Chambers Harrap remaining in Edinburgh as part of Hachette UK is "finally completely out of the question", after staff at the firm were yesterday (26th) offered "an enhanced settlement" by its parent company in anticipation of reaching a conclusion this week over the proposed closure of its Edinburgh base.

Father of the chapel Liam Rodger said staff would wait until they had "the full facts" before making a decision. But, according to Rodger, the new package "addressed some issues that the NUJ chapel felt strongly about, and it had a financial element as well". He said: "We felt the settlement originally proposed wouldn't recognise the full contribution that has been made by certain members of the staff, and that issue has been resolved."
The NUJ chapel, which comprises the "majority" of the publisher's staff, will make its final decision on Wednesday after being presented with a full legal opinion about whether a "successful case" could be made against the handling of the consultation. But Rodger acknowledged: "Chambers Harrap remaining in Edinburgh, within the Hachette UK family, is finally completely out of the question. The chapel felt that was inevitable from the beginning."
A Hachette UK spokesperson said: "[Monday's] meeting was positive. We feel we have reached an agreement with the NUJ which, pending approval from their members, will be confirmed finally on Wednesday."
It was announced mid-September that the Edinburgh office was being shut, with the loss of up to 27 positions, and the two imprints merged into the parent's operations in London and Paris, after Hachette failed to find a buyer for Chambers. Growing competition from free online sources was cited as the main factor in the decision to close.
If the settlement is agreed upon, notice periods will be given and the winding down of the Edinburgh operation will begin on Wednesday. It is anticipated that the office will be closed by the end of the year.
Rodger said the team was still hoping a buyer may come forward to take on the Chambers list. A growing number of people have come out in support of the 191-year-old publisher, which has attracted more than 1,000 signatures to its online petition, while nine ministers have signed an early day motion, filed by Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith.
Despite not having members at the company, the country's largest union Unite also offered support. Its national officer, Ann Field, said: "Unite members in other publishers, book printing and distribution companies are concerned at yet another blow being aimed at the UK book industry.
"The internet serves to expand massively resources of information. But replacement of the printed word is only in the interests of accountants and bankers, not the readers and researchers. Unite is right behind the National Union of Journalists in its continuing campaign to save these jobs in Edinburgh."

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