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Complainant Name:
Mr Tim Cowen

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Camden New Journal


Mr Tim Cowen of NSL complained to the Press Complaints Commission about an article reporting on a dispute over working hours in its parking enforcement operation, which it ran on behalf of Camden Council. The complainant was concerned about a Unison claim that NSL had ‘consistently refused to recognise Unison for the purposes of collective bargaining over pay and other issues...despite the fact that a clear majority of staff on the NSL Camden contract were Unison members - the basic criterion for union recognition'. The complainant explained that there was no recognition agreement in place because no evidence of a ‘clear majority' had ever been produced by Unison. He was concerned that this specific allegation had not been put to him prior to publication, with the result that readers might infer that NSL was in breach of trade union law.


Although the newspaper accepted that it did not ask specifically what NSL thought about union representation, it said that Unison's claim to have a large share of Camden's NSL workforce as members was explained to the complainant prior to publication. Given that no direct comment was made on this point, the newspaper felt that it was reasonable to infer that NSL did not know the size of Unison representation and, therefore, to rely on Unison's claim that a ‘clear majority' existed. While the newspaper did not accept that there had been a breach of the Code, the matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following clarification:

A report in the Camden New Journal on December 23 quoted an official from Unison saying that NSL had refused to recognise union, despite there being a majority of the workforce who are Unison members. NSL say they have never refused to recognise Unison and they say they had never received any evidence of Unison membership in Camden. They add that they have now received this evidence for the first time in the last few weeks and are in the process of agreeing recognition in Camden with Unison.

Date Published: 05/05/2011

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