Johnston freezes pay while NUJ threatens strike action

Johnston Press-owned South Yorkshire Newspapers has said it will keep wages frozen while under the threat of strike action.

NUJ members at the company voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action after nine months of attempting to secure a pay deal with management.

So far management has offered an across-the-board pay rise of 2.75 per cent, but the union is pushing for a 5 per cent increase.

A statement issued by SYN chief executive Terry Johnson said: “The company’s pay offer is competitive, and along with the improvements made to the grading structure over recent years, represents a very fair overall basic offer.

“While we always endeavour to take a positive approach to improving our employees’ pay and conditions, we believe that in the current economic climate we have now made our best and final offer.” Johnson added: “We remain open to constructive discussions, however we cannot implement the pay increases while under threat of industrial action.” Some 85.7 per cent of journalists at the Johnston Press-owned group voted to strike on 12, 18 and 19 July unless they can agree a deal with bosses.

The strike would be combined with a policy of work-to-rule, meaning a total ban on working evenings and weekends for two weeks starting from 10 July.

Some journalists on the newspapers are paid £11,400, according the union, and it claims that some who have worked at the company for 20 years and have a high level of responsibility are on salaries of “little more than 20,000”.

Mother of chapel at SYN Emma Roots said: “Salaries have declined so much in real terms over the past decade that we believe it is essential to begin reversing that trend, and so we have asked for an increase above the rate of inflation.

“This is a reluctant last resort after almost a year of persistent attempts by the union to engage management in meaningful dialogue.

“The decision to strike was not taken lightly — but we aim to send a message to Johnston Press that its policy of pittance pay is causing real harm to the very industry which is filling its coffers.” The union has also expressed concern that workloads have been increasing, because staff who are leaving the company are not being replaced.

South Yorkshire Newspapers employs around 50 journalists and publishes a series of weekly newspapers including the Doncaster Free Press, which has a circulation of 36,079, as well as the South Yorkshire Times, Epworth Bells, Doncaster Advertiser, Goole Courier and Gainsborough Standard, and a further seven community newsletters.

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