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John Buckley

AAP staff push management for a new pay deal and improved rostering

Unionised staff at the Australian Associated Press (AAP) are pushing management for a new three-year pay deal and improved rostering as union representatives prepare to head into early negotiations next week, Crikey understands.

The three-year deal put to management would see staff get annual pay rises of 6% until July 2026, and extend coverage of the company’s enterprise agreement to cover assistant and specialist roles in the newsroom.

AAP management has stood firm on limiting the agreement to one year, and has yet to counter with a revised offer on pay, Crikey understands. Union members remain hopeful, however, that there could be movement in the coming weeks, given the parties have only sat down for negotiations once.

A spokesperson for the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) wouldn’t be drawn on the details of negotiations but said the union’s AAP members are “united in their resolve to seek a fair outcome” once talks draw to a close.

The desired outcome would also include a commitment to addressing gender and racial pay gaps at the newswire, which Crikey understands AAP management is considering, as well as clearer pathways to career progression and pay rises.

Staff have also called for improvements to the newswire’s approach to rostering and break patterns, which have emerged as hot-ticket negotiation items in newsrooms around the country.

The union has asked AAP management to commit to “appropriately recruit” the number of staff needed to fill roster requirements, which Crikey understands has so far been rejected. The newswire will however consider increasing flexibility and transparency around rostering and offering two “clear days” free from work for staff moving “between opposite shift patterns e.g. night to day shifts”.

AAP chief executive Lisa Davies declined to comment on the negotiations.

The talks come on the heels of a fresh $5 million funding commitment from the Albanese government in May, and support from Atlassian boss Mike Cannon-Brookes in March, whose philanthropic backing, alongside that of the Rockefeller Foundation, props up the newswire’s Future Economies reporting.

Government support currently makes up some 40% of AAP’s revenue, according to the charities watchdog, with nearly three-quarters of the organisation’s income put towards employee expenses.

The newswire also relies on the generosity of a number of philanthropists to fund its various reporting desks, on top of the income it pockets from commercial tie-ups for the distribution of its journalism.

Some of the publications with active AAP subscriptions include The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age, and The Australian Financial Review, after Nine signed up to a two-year print and text deal with the newswire in December last year. Guardian Australia often runs AAP copy in its live blog, while Private Media, publisher of Crikey, also publishes its text and images.

“Everything we do is to support the public interest journalism,” Davies told The Australian Financial Review in March.

“Newswires internationally are loss-making businesses. They are either supported by the industry, media owns it and puts [in its] own cash, or the government funds it.”

The MEAA’s early talks with AAP follow a string of renewed pay deals at major newsrooms across Australia, despite rising interest rates and a soft advertising market riddled with volatility.

Among the most recent to score an improved pay deal were staff at the ABC, who in late April voted up a pay rise of 11% over three years, backdated to October last year, along with a $1500 cash bonus.

The new deal at the public broadcaster also included a commitment from management to audit gender and race pay gaps, as well as improvements to career progression that’ll make it easier for journalists to climb pay grades.

Others haven’t been so lucky. Staff at Kerry Stokes’ The West Australian, by comparison, were late last month asked by management to suggest cuts, or “cost offsets”, to fund what they wanted out of a new pay deal.

In the results of a survey, staff at The West called management’s suggestion to outline cuts to their own entitlements “another slap in the face after years of mistreatment” and “a failure of leadership, and a failure of fairness”.

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