Journalists at Alpha Newspapers in Northern Ireland vote to strike over £7.85 an hour wages

Journalists working at Northern Irish publisher Alpha Newspapers have voted in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay and trade union recognition.

NUJ members working  on the Coleraine Chronicle and Northern Constitution, the Antrim and Ballymena Guardian, the Newry Democrat, the Ulster Gazette and the County Down Outlook have voted to take industrial action.

Journalists on the Coleraine Chronicle and Northern Constitution voted 87.5 percent in favour of strike action while NUJ members on the other titles voted 100 percent in favour.

More than 30 percent of journalists employed by Alpha Newspapers earn around the living wage of £7.85 an hour, according to the NUJ.

Over 85 percent of the journalists working on the titles, who are seeking a pay rise of 14.5 percent, are members of the NUJ.

The move mirrors that of journalists at Johnston Press in Northern Ireland who have threatened to strike over planned job cuts.

Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish organiser, said: “Alpha is renowned for being one of the lowest paying media companies in Northern Ireland and is widely regarded as breaking up the NUJ’s sector based collective agreement for journalists in regional newspapers.

“The results of this are clear; more than 30 per cent of journalists employed by the company earning just a Living Wage, in many cases despite years of service. Our members see the link between trade union recognition/bargaining rights and decent pay.

“They recognise that their current situation is a direct result of their employer smashing the previous collective agreement and they are determined to fight for a union recognition agreement and a collectively agreed incremental salary scale that is fair.”

Alpha Newspapers said in a statement: “The board of Alpha Newspapers are very disappointed with the NUJ course of action and press release and would like to clarify that only one third of the editorial team employed by the group have voted for strike action.

“As an independently owned group the 14.5 per cent increase demanded is totally unrealistic in the current environment or indeed for any business. The group is committed to improving the overall remuneration of all staff but it will be based on affordability to ensure the long term future of the business.

“The Alpha Group has focused on and invested in publishing strong local newspapers with editorial teams based locally and is well placed to continue to do so against the backdrop of significant job losses elsewhere.

“The board would also like to clarify that it does not own the Tyrone Times as the NUJ have stated in their press release.”

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