Newsquest journalists mulling nationwide strike

Journalist across Newsquest are considering proposals for a nationwide strike in the New Year in protest to a company pay freeze that has been in place for almost three years.

National Union of Journalists chapels on Newsquest papers across the UK are individually considering a 48-hour strike on January 6 and 7 as staff become increasing angered by their employer’s failure to confirm whether they are likely to receive a pay rise next year.

Journalists at Newsquest Oxfordshire – which produces seven papers including the Oxford Mail and Bicester Advertiser – yesterday became the first to commit to a ballot on a walkout in the New Year.

Newsquest already faces strikes at its centres in Southampton and Brighton next week and votes at several other centres across the country in protest to the pay freeze, changes to the company pension scheme and localised disputes over job losses.

Journalists at Newsquest in Darlington voted for strike action earlier this week in protest at proposed redundancies and the pay freeze. Those working for Newsquest in Andover also intend to ballot for strike action, as do their colleagues at centres in York, Bradford, Bolton and Blackburn.

The NUJ’s executive council is spearheading a campaign around the situation at Newsquest where the pay freeze, job cuts and controversial reform of the pension scheme have left employees feeling jaded at a time when executives at the company are seeing their pay increase.

The highest paid director of Newsquest – understood to be chief executive Paul Davidson – received a remuneration increase of 21.5 per cent last year.

Financial records filed at Companies House in October 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

The Companies House figures also revealed that operating profit for Gannett UK, which runs Newsquest, was £71.7m for 2009 after 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.”

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and Midlands organiser, said: ‘There is such widespread anger throughout the group I don’t think it would take anyone by surprise [if the walkout went ahead].

‘Newsquest has done everything it can to stoke fires of discontent in its chapels…all over Newsquest has so many issues causing NUJ members so much grief.

‘We have sought to have wide-ranging discussions with Newsquest about these issues but we get stonewalled by Paul Davidson as do any media that try to talk to him about these issues.”

Newsquest head office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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