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Vice UK redundancies: Staff consider strike action

Vice UK’s union chapel is balloting members on whether they would consider strike action in response to the online publisher’s redundancy offers.

Press Gazette understands that 23 jobs at Vice, mostly in video production and post-production, are at risk of redundancy.

On 31 May, the National Union of Journalists revealed that those facing redundancy had been offered “the bare minimum of statutory redundancy pay”. This could have left some outgoing staff with nothing.

Since then Vice’s management, represented by European chief operating officer Katherine Chandler, has held meetings with union reps to negotiate.

[Read more: Digital natives on the ropes: What next for online news publishers?]

Press Gazette understands management offered staff a flat redundancy payout of £2,000 on top to statutory redundancy. This was rejected by the chapel and negotiations are ongoing.

Under UK statutory redundancy rules, employees who have worked at their companies for two years or more receive half a week’s pay for each full year when they were under 22, a full week’s pay for each full year worked between the ages of 22 and 41, and 1.5 week’s pay for each full year completed at the age of 41 or over. Length of service is capped at 20 years and weekly pay is capped at £643. Statutory redundancy alone would mean that some of Vice UK’s employees would be left with no payout.

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Vice UK’s latest round of redundancies was announced in late April. In May its US parent company, Vice Media, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said it was in talks to be acquired by its lenders for $225m. In Vice Media’s heyday, private investments valued the company at $5.7bn.

On 31 May, highlighting the statutory redundancy offer, the Vice UK chapel said in a statement that it was “devastated and shocked to learn that not only are dozens of colleagues been placed at risk of redundancy, but that the company is currently only prepared to offer the bare minimum of statutory redundancy pay to those affected.

“Throughout this process, the company has shown little regard for the personal circumstances of many of our colleagues affected, such as staff who are on maternity leave or pregnant, and many who are on lower salaries with less career experience.

“Vice seems determined to send the message that it is a profitable company and will emerge financially healthy from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This process should reflect that, and staff should be paid what they deserve. We implore the company to treat those facing potential redundancy with dignity and respect by offering pay packages that our colleagues deserve.”

Vice’s recent troubles have coincided with challenges at Buzzfeed, which announced the closure of its news division in April. Buzzfeed, at peak, had a private market valuation of $1.7bn. Today the market capitalisation of Buzzfeed, which now incorporates Huffpost and Complex Networks, stands at less than $100m.

Vice did not respond to a request for comment.

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