Journalists on the Southern Daily Echo are hailing recent strike action as a success after parent company Newsquest offered to end a near three-year pay freeze with a two per cent pay rise.
The National Union of Journalists chapel from the Southampton-based newspaper claimed today Newsquest offered an across the board pay rise.
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The offer of a two per cent pay increase, which would take effect from 1 July, was made to journalists on Friday during the third day of a three-day strike.
Despite the companywide pay freeze being broken last month when Newsquest offered journalists working on papers in the north of England a two per cent increase, the Echo chapel claimed its management had previously indicated there was no sign of an offer being tabled in 2011.
The Echo chapel – which makes up around 75 per cent of the editorial staff on the paper – said its priority now was the reinstatement of previously agreed minimum payments for individual staff members which have been suspended for more than two-and-a-half years.
Journalists at the paper protested the ongoing pay freeze by taking part in strike action for a total of seven days since November.
The pay offer to staff on the Daily Echo comes after a two per cent pay increase was offered to those working on The Press in York and at its centre in Bradford prior to Christmas, bringing an end to possible industrial action at these centres.
Despite a pay offer at The Northern Echo in Darlington, journalists pressed ahead with their own strike last week in protest to local job losses.
Staff at Newsquest’s Brighton Argus journalists staged a third 48-hour walkout last week in protest to local job losses and the shift of its subbing operation to Southampton.
Ian Murray, Daily Echo editor-in-chief, said: “All staff at the Southern Daily Echo, including advertising, sales and administration, were informed of a two per cent pay rise to take effect from July 1, 2011 at a meeting on Friday, January 7.
“This was a staff council meeting to which representatives of editorial were invited with two weeks’ warning but declined, choosing instead to take strike action. A meeting offered to the NUJ chapel representatives alone for the same day was also declined.
“To claim that industrial action in any way prompted the pay increase is wrong. At no point was a pay rise in 2011 ever ruled out.
“Management were sorry, that even after being informed that the meetings would take place on January 7 and then in fact agreeing to attend a meeting diaried at their request on January 11, the NUJ decided to announce the strike action taken during last week.
“It was ironic indeed that while staff were being informed of the pay increase at the pre-publicised meeting, NUJ members were not present because of strike action being taken over the very issue that was being discussed.”