NUJ announces 12-month low pay protests

The NUJ has drawn up plans for a series of protests to highlight low pay by media companies across the UK.

The plans were backed at a special “pay summit” of union reps from regional newspapers, magazines and books, held at the union’s headquarters last weekend.

Targets for the protests are likely to include the Newspaper Society offices in London as well as industry events, such as Local Newspaper Week, conferences and awards ceremonies.

There will be a national day of protest as well as a national union recruitment day. The protests are likely to start in the New Year and run throughout 2005.

The union is planning to approach local MPs, councillors and advertisers it feels may be sympathetic, such as trade unions, local authorities and “ethical” companies such as the Co-op.

The NUJ’s Parliamentary Group of MPs will also be asked to back the campaign with early day motions, adjournment debates and direct approaches to editors and media companies.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “The idea is about making pay an issue that media companies cannot ignore.”

He stressed the campaign is not just about regional newspapers.

“Although we have always traditionally focused on local papers as the worst, it is a problem right across the industry. There are pockets of low pay in commercial radio and PR.”

The NUJ is seeking to coordinate pay claims nationally across media sectors.

It is setting up a website giving detailed information about pay and also wants to highlight examples of “good practice” where companies have negotiated favourable agreements with the NUJ.

Dear claims that the lowest rates for journalists in the big four regional newspaper groups have risen 25 per cent in the last two years since the NUJ won back recognition. He said government figures show that journalists’ pay went up 5.1 per cent last year. But Dear added that at the meeting an example was given of a journalist with 21 years of service with a regional paper company who was having to claim £100 a week in benefits because of low pay.

By Jon Slattery

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