NUJ takes Newsquest pay row to Washington

Newsquest: under fire from the NUJ

British journalists gatecrashed the annual meeting of US newspaper giant Gannett to demand better pay at its UK titles.

Gannett owns Newsquest, Britain’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher. The NUJ has targeted Newsquest with its Fair Pay Now campaign, which is calling for a minimum salary of £20,000 for senior journalists on daily papers and £15,000 for those on weeklies.

NUJ newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick, NEC member Dave Toomer and the father of Newsquest Andover NUJ chapel, Dick Bellringer, attended the annual shareholders’ meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

They were able to join the meeting because the NUJ owns a small number of company shares.

Also at the meeting were Gannett journalists and US officials from the Newspapers Guild.

The NUJ backed a motion condemning executive pay at the company as “excessive” and “unjustified” and calling for a $1m (£557,000) cap on wages for bosses.

According to the Washington Post, in 2002 Gannett chairman Douglas McCorkindale earned $19.9m (£11.1m) including salary, bonus and share options. Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson earned $449,389 (£246,700) with a bonus of $160,339 (£88,000). Both attended Tuesday’s meeting.

NUJ members also raised the issue of pay for UK journalists, pointing out that more than 70 MPs had signed an early day motion condemning pay at Newsquest. And they brought up the issue of racial and sexual discrimination asking whether Newsquest has a workplace diversity policy.

The motion on pay was defeated, but McCorkindale did agree to examine the issue of workplace diversity.

Fitzpatrick said: “The object was to publicise the case and make sure Gannett was aware of the strength of feeling and not getting a censored version of what’s happening in Britain.”

He said the NUJ planned to form links with Gannett journalists working in the US to compare standards of pay and conditions.

Gannett vice-president for global communications, Tara Connell, said: “Newsquest, coming fairly late to the company, hasn’t done things in the way Gannett does (on diversity), but it is moving in that direction.

“As far as Paul Davidson’s salary is concerned, he got a fairly significant rise. This was because of the exchange rate, he also got a good rise because he got good results.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “A well-rewarded, well-motivated workforce is the only sustainable basis for long-term success. Paying poverty pay simply causes staff turnover, absenteeism, resentment, demoralisation and lack of motivation.”

A Newsquest spokesman said: “Although the NUJ, for its own reasons, continues to target Newsquest for its activities, we do not believe the pay for our journalists is out of step with other newspaper companies.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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