Milton Keynes journalists plan more action over pay

Journalists at the Milton Keynes Citizen have announced six further days of strike action after going on the picket line from Monday to Wednesdaythis week.

They propose to strike on the same days next week, and the following week. The union voted to strike in rejection of a three per cent pay offer tied in with pay banding. Trainees joining the Johnston Press paper at the start of the pay band are being offered a new starting rate up 10 per cent on last year, but most journalists on the paper will get three per cent under the deal, negotiated up from 2.75 per cent.

In the second and third year, salary would be linked with retail price index inflation rates in the last three months of the year, unless that figure exceeds 3.5 per cent.

It is the first pay claim since journalists at the free title gained union recognition in September 2006.

Some 11 members of the chapel went on strike out of 17 journalists in total. One NUJ member voted against the strike and has left the union.

Mother of the chapel Karen Jeffrey said the strike was not just over pay, but a culmination of complaints which include claims of under-staffing, slow replacement of staff, and senior reporter vacancies being filled by juniors.

Jeffrey said: ’We’ve had some fantastic support. We’ve had both our local TV stations down to film us, and we’ve got the journalists, the union, and our local MP Dr Phyllis Starkey, who said she would call the editor on behalf of her constituents. It’s been really encouraging.

‘We hoped to never have to strike in the first place, and we hope not to have to continue it, but we remain resolute, and we feel as though we are fighting a fair fight.

‘For the past six months, since the offer of three per cent, we’ve said to them that we would be willing to accept 3.5 per cent. It’s not all about the money, it’s very much about the quality issue as well.

‘We are one photographer down on what we used to have, and 1.5 reporters down, but previously we were only producing one paper, 54 editions a year back then; now we produce various publications totalling around 310 editions.”

In a statement, the company said: ‘The overall company offer is generous given the current economic climate. It combines a fair basic increase with significant improvement in the existing salary structure.

‘While we will always endeavour to take a constructive approach, we have now made our best offer.

‘We have made it clear to the journalists that industrial action will not result in any improvements and will benefit no one.

‘Steps have been taken to ensure that the quality and frequency of our publications will not suffer as a result of any action taken by the NUJ in Milton Keynes.”

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