The National Union of Journalists has called on Newsquest to engage with the union on a national level over its plans to close its final salary pension scheme.
Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson wrote to members of the company’s scheme ten days ago informing them that a 60-day consultation had been entered into over the proposed closure.
The regional publishing group is understood to have also written to union officials – at publishing centres where NUJ chapels are recognised – saying it would consult with them on a local level over the proposed changes.
However, union officials believe that as the pension provision is a national scheme the regional publisher, which is owned by US newspaper giant Gannett, should deal with employee concerns on a national level, as was the case with other regional groups when changes were made to their pension schemes.
Chris Morley, NUJ organiser, told Press Gazette: “We have written to Paul Davidson to say that we don’t find it acceptable that such a major decision should be conducted on a fragmented local level and invited him for talks.”
The union has already received an indication from local management that its request for national talks was likely to be refused, Morley said, but it had not received any official notification either way.
“It [local consultation] seems to be an extremely awkward way of dealing with the concerns of our members when they could instead all be rolled into one set of talks, which could also take into account local concerns alongside the national,” Morley added.
The union is planning to write to the eight trustees of the Newsquest pension scheme, Morley said, to ask them for a public statement on the publisher’s proposals.
In addition to the request for national level talks, he added, the union has called on Newsquest to extend the consultation on its pension scheme proposals beyond the 60-day limit it at the start of the month.
It was “manifestly unfair” for the consultation to be called during the prime holiday period, Morley said, adding there was more than sufficient scope to extend the deadline as the scheme was not earmarked for closure until 31 March next year.
Morley said Newsquest was fast becoming “the poor relation of all the newspaper groups”.
The proposed replacement pension scheme being offered by Newsquest is understood to offer an employer contribution of six per cent of an employee’s annual salary to the fund.
This was lower than Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press, which settled on contributions, respectively, of ten and eight per cent to employees pensions after engaging in national level talks with the NUJ, Morley added.
Press Gazette contacted Newsquest last night and was told that Davidson was not available and that nobody else was able to comment on the company’s behalf.