'Disbelief' at Newsquest deal to offer loans to journalists

Newsquest Bolton has attracted flak from the NUJ after an advertiser offered its journalists loan deals.

Northern organiser at the NUJ Chris Morley described the move at Newsquest Bolton as ‘insensitive’after the company had played ‘hard ball’on the annual pay deal for staff.

Management sent an email around to staff informing them that if they had found themselves in debt, Newsquest had teamed up with local company Affinity Loans and could help out.

The email said: ‘Have you… Overspent on your credit cards? Credit card balances that are not reducing? Plans for home improvements or a holiday? A desire to reduce your monthly outgoings? Any cash needs?

‘Then great news, Newsquest Bolton has teamed up with Affinity Loans for a limited-period special offer. Newsquest Bolton employees exclusively qualify for the first month’s loan payment free.

‘The monthly payment will be paid upon successful completion of your loan on applications made on or before 28 February, 2008.”

The loan rates vary from 6.9 per cent APR to 19.2 per cent. The email was sent to journalists on titles including the Bolton News and The Bury Journal.

Morley said: ‘It’s unbelievable. People are aghast with the insensitivity of this given that they have just concluded a pay deal where the company played hard ball.

‘Newsquest has consistently done its damndest to hold down pay. This year’s pay has gone up by just three per cent, when inflation is four per cent.

‘Starting trainees can be paid less than £13,000 even after this year’s rise and newly qualified seniors are on £16,000.”

Father of chapel at Newsquest Bolton and Bury Dave Thomson added: ‘I don’t think management had realised the irony of it. We did see the funny side of it.”

Newsquest Bolton managing director Eric Henshaw said: ‘Nobody has raised any issues with us about this. From time to time we get special offers from our advertisers which we offer out to our staff.

‘We were able to negotiate special prices on Vauxhall cars… anything an advertiser or customer can offer us where a Newsquest member of staff can gain a better deal than someone coming in off the street.

‘We don’t make any money out of it. We don’t in any way make it part of the commercial advertisement process at all, I think it would be improper to do that. I think it’s rather silly of the NUJ to raise an issue like this.”

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