Gallery: Newsquest protest grows as Brighton Argus staff strike

(Images courtesy of Rob James)

Journalists on the Brighton Argus will today embark on the second of two days of strike action in protest at management plans to move the paper’s sub-editing operation to Southampton.

This action joins sees Newsquest employees in Brighton join a growing band of colleagues taking a stand against their employer.

Journalists at Newsquest in Blackburn are balloting on strike action over a company-wide pay freeze which has lasted almost two-and-a-half-years joining colleagues from the North East who are taking a strike vote for similar reasons.

Staff at Newsquest in Southampton have already been out on strike over the pay freeze, while colleagues in Yorkshire are facing the prospect of job losses and possible industrial action.

These protests have come on a rising tide of anger at senior management at Newsquest.

The company pay freeze may have been in place since July, 2008, but the highest paid director of Newsquest – understood to be chief executive Paul Davidson – still received a remuneration increase of 21.5 per cent last year.

Financial records filed at Companies House last month revealed that Newsquest’s top earning director’s pay climbed from £501,234 to £609,385.

Payments to his pension scheme increased from £38,536 to £94,986

Those figures also revealed that operating profit for Gannett UK, which runs Newsquest, was reported to be £71.7m for 2009, compared with an operating loss of £462,000 in 2008.

The financial health of Newsquest led Gracia Martore, chief financial officer at the company’s US parent, Gannett, to say last month that ‘Newsquest makes a lot of money.”

Despite this, Newsquest is in the midst of reducing benefits paid out to many staff by ending final salary pension payouts for existing members of the scheme.

In Brighton, protests have arisen as the National Union of Journalists fears that a cost-cutting proposal will see seven staff made redundant and the paper become less in touch with the community.

A spokesperson from the NUJ’s Brighton Argus chapel said yesterday: “We’ve been truly overwhelmed by the support we’ve received today.

“There has been a non-stop symphony of tooting horns from passing motorists, and workers also facing the prospect of the sack coming along to join us on the picket line to show their support.

“It’s clear that people immediately understand that sacking local staff in the name of providing a local service more cheaply is madness.

“The whole city seems to be right behind us. We’re looking forward to even more support tomorrow and would encourage people to try and take the time to come along to the picket line and show their support.”

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