Regional newspaper giant Johnston Press has prompted outrage among staff after cutting the mileage expenses paid for using their own cars from the HMRC rate of 45p per mile to 25p.
In a statement the NUJ group chapel said: “There is a huge amount of anger among members throughout the company who are united in their opposition to these proposals.
"We have seen evidence that Johnston Press originally intended to introduce this change in November, which makes it even harder to accept the decision not to consult staff in any way and to give them just 24 hours’ notice about this reduction in mileage rates. We haven’t even had anything in writing about this substantial change to our terms and conditions."
According to the NUJ, many chapels in local centres have already written to regional managing directors to object to the plans and some have voted to withdraw their own cars for business use.
A spokesperson for the group NUJ chapel said: “The reduction in mileage rates will heavily impact on our members, particularly photographers, sports reporters and staff who have no longer have an office.
"It not only wipes out any minimal pay rises staff have received in recent years, but will also prevent them doing their jobs properly. Reps have told us there are no pool cars available at their offices or that it costs more to get a bus from their new out-of-town office into the centre than it would to drive and claim 45p per mile. It brings the whole idea that this is a justifiable cost-saving measure into question.”
In recent years Johnston Press has closed a number of town centre offices, with many journalists asked to work from home and others based at regional centres.
NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: "Johnston Press says it wants all its employees to feel valued, but actions like these show just how little it thinks of staff who have shown a great deal of loyalty and commitment in the face of jobs cuts, office closures, increasing workloads and below-inflation pay rises. There has been no consultation on this mileage cut and editors have been briefed not to negotiate with our reps.
"The company has made much of giving staff the right tools for the job and talks about journalists working from their patches when it is trying to justify closing or relocating offices – but this move will make it prohibitively expensive for our members to use their own cars to do that and suitable alternatives are not in place. It will also render impossible some of the quality, award-winning investigative work that the group's journalists have produced, enhancing Johnston Press's reputation."
Meanwhile, Press Gazette understands that Newsquest has cuts its mileage rate from 45p to 42p per mile.