There have been internal discussions among staff at the London-based office of news and lifestyle website HuffPost about unionising the newsroom, BuzzFeed News has learned.
According to senior sources, key members of the 45-strong HuffPost UK editorial staff have begun the push, with the prospect of union recognition with the National Union of Journalists currently being taken up with the UK website's new management.
HuffPost UK has been reorganising operations since former Guardian digital editor Polly Curtis joined the website as editor last year.
Curtis is expected to announce a new head of news and head of distribution in the coming weeks.
The HuffPost US team already has a unionised newsroom, with editorial staff represented by the Writers Guild of America East.
Curtis told BuzzFeed News: "We believe in the importance of our journalists having an open dialogue in our newsroom and working with them to ensure HuffPost remains a great place to work. I'm always happy to have that open dialogue with the team in my role as editor-in-chief."
However, it appears there is some tension around the move. When BuzzFeed UK made some final enquiries about this story, HuffPost UK's deputy political editor Owen Bennett phoned a senior member of our news team to say: "Don't stick your fucking nose into this."
"It's got nothing to do with you, keep your nose out," he added over text.
It's the third time in recent years that the UK edition of a major US news and lifestyle website has gone down the path of unionisation.
In early 2016, Vice UK moved to register with the National Union of Journalists. The effort fell apart after Vice management pushed back against the move and offered instead to set-up an internal committee to deal with staff issues.
Later in that year, staff at BuzzFeed UK also asked for union recognition. The union's case is currently being adjudged by the UK government's Central Arbitration Committee, which earlier this year decided that the NUJ’s application for recognition satisfied the requirements for validity.
A BuzzFeed UK spokesperson said the CAC will now decide whether there should be a secret ballot to test whether there remains a majority of staff in the newsroom who support collective bargaining.
Earlier this year BuzzFeed UK shed a third of its staff, with around 20 staff on editorial being made redundant. The company blamed missed revenue targets for the redundancies.
In the wake of the BBC's gender pay scandal last month, Curtis appeared on the BBC Media Show, speaking confidently of HuffPost UK's remuneration for reporters.
"Personally as a woman journalist it’s really, really important for me the pay is equitable and the rewards are right," Curtis told the programme.
"One of the first things I did when I started three or four months ago was go through all the salary data myself and make sure I could look myself in the mirror and say we’re doing the right thing, and we are.
"I’m absolutely satisfied that our reporters are paid fairly."
The NUJ did not provide responses to questions to BuzzFeed News by the time of publication.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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