Manager of Clare paper cancels bonuses

 

While children eagerly await the arrival of bountiful Santa, workers at the Clare Champion have already encountered a not-so-endearing seasonal message.

Staff at the weekly newspaper, which has a circulation of 22,000, in a county with a population of 90,000, were astonished when they opened an envelope which they believed would contain their annual Christmas bonus.

Inside was a circular from the general manager, Mr John Galvin, explaining why workers were not to receive a bonus.

Angry staff have turned to union representatives to try to resolve the situation.

Mr Seamus Dooley, national organiser of the NUJ, said: "The Christmas bonus is paid at the discretion of John Galvin, general manager, to members of the NUJ and the GPMU. The bonus is not an entitlement, but of course over time it has been seen as such."

Mr Galvin informed all staff that he would not be paying what he sees as a bonus for loyalty and co-operation because "during this year, there have been a number of cases where employees took action resulting in damage to the company and consequent risk to the livelihood of everybody working here. In light of this, it would be inappropriate to pay a bonus for this year".

In the letter, Mr Galvin says he realises "there are innocent parties affected by this decision and for this I apologise - the decision was not taken lightly. I hope that I never have to take action like this again and that we can move forward from here to secure all our futures".

Mr Dooley wrote to Mr Galvin demanding that he withdraw the allegation that members had posed a threat to the livelihood of colleagues or at least to clarify what he was referring to in his staff circular.

Mr Dooley said he believed that as a result of his correspondence, Mr Galvin met chapel officers earlier this week and subsequently withdrew the allegations, but he has refused to pay the bonus.

The Clare Champion, which is about to enter its centenary year, is one of the last newspapers in Ireland to embrace new technology.

It is believed that the key accusation within the circular letter refers to a "walk-out" by printing staff during the summer which resulted in the newspaper appearing a day late. The act was a protest at working conditions during major building renovation and computer-system upgrading.

Journalists have also had recent disagreements with management. When the decision to turn the heating off as a cost-cutting measure was introduced last year, reporters staged a walk-out. The issue was later resolved at arbitration through the NUJ and the Regional Newspapers of Ireland.

Mr Galvin, who was unavailable for comment, took over at the helm of the newspaper from his father, Flan Galvin, six years ago.