Newsquest singled out in NUJ's low-pay campaign

Campaign launch: (L to R) Dear with union officials Barry Fitzpatrick and Don Mackglew

The NUJ has launched a nationwide campaign against low pay in the regional press by targeting Newsquest.

The move coincides with the union lodging its first group-wide pay demand at a major newspaper publisher for more than a decade.

Journalists at Newsquest’s various centres around the country have asked for a 6 per cent rise for each of the next two years. The goal is to bring the minimum pay for a qualified journalist on a daily paper at the company to £20,000 by July 2005.

On Thursday, NUJ members were due to be leafleting in towns and cities such as Brighton, Oxford, York, Bolton, Bradford and Swindon where Newsquest owns papers.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said the union had singled out Newsquest in the hope that the other major regional newspaper publishers would follow if it can be persuaded to increase wages.

Newsquest is the UK’s second-biggest regional newspaper publisher and owns 300 titles, including the The Argus in Brighton, the Evening Advertiser in Swindon and the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford.

Dear said: “Newsquest is by no means the only company that pays wages that are far too low. But it is one of the biggest and certainly one of the most profitable. We are told by newspaper companies that the market says this is how much they have to pay. If one or two prominent companies said they were going to invest in their journalists others would follow suit.”

Last month, journalists at Newsquest Bradford ended a six-month pay dispute when they settled for the management’s initial offer of a 2 per cent pay increase backdated to January.

The NUJ claims pay rates for journalists on Newsquest titles are as low as £12,000 a year for graduate trainees and £14,000 for qualified seniors.

Dear said: “The average wage of a non-manual worker in this country is £27,000 – I don’t think there’s a single journalist at Newsquest who earns that much, apart from people like editors and deputy editors.

“In many places there are journalists with 10 years’ experience who are earning £10,000 less than that. I don’t understand why newspaper employers – and in this case Newsquest – don’t value their journalists more.”

Last week, Newsquest’s US parent Gannett posted quarterly profits up 5 per cent to $279 (£166m), with Newsquest said to be the best -performing part of the company.

Newsquest managing director Paul Davidson was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Traditionally, regional newspaper groups are against company-wide pay agreements, arguing that local managements should set wages based on local economic conditions.

By Dominic Ponsford

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