Pay freeze fears prompt strike vote at The Independent

Journalists at the Independent titles are to ballot for industrial action at the end of the month over fears they will face a pay freeze for a second year.

Salaries at the Independent titles were frozen on 1 January this year ahead of Alexander Lebedev’s take-over from Independent News and Media in March.

Negotiations have yet to start with management over next year’s pay deal but a meeting has been scheduled for December.

Independent journalists are understood to be concerned about current work levels in the wake of more than 60 editorial redundancies last year and the extra strain of producing new sister title i, which was launched last month.

The Independent titles currently employ around 200 journalists, which is consderably less than half the number employed by each of their quality newspaper rivals: Guardian News and Media, Telegraph Media Group and The Times/Sunday Times.

Press Gazette understands that around 10 extra production staff have been recruited to produce ‘i’ with a further ten existing Independent staff given extra responsibility for the new title.

National Union of Journalists national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick told Press Gazette: ‘It’s a miracle they get the newspapers out every day because the Independent is quite a comprehensive newspaper and you have to give our members credit for that.’He said that journalists will be seeking a pay rise which reflects their additional workloads.

The ‘i’ is a 20p a day condensed version of the The Independent and launched on 26 October. The Guardian today quotes ‘industry sources’which estimate average daily sales of between 125,000 and 150,000 a day for ‘i’.

One newsagent at a busy London commuter station told Press Gazette that daily sales of ‘i’ for him had dropped from 200 a day in launch week to around 20 a day.

Independent bosses have said they will not speculate about ‘i’ sales until the first audited figures are returned by ABC in the middle of December.

Indepependent managing director Andrew Mullins said in a statement: “Wholesalers give competitors the percentage of copies that are returned but they don’t tell them how many copies we distribute in the first place. As a result, any numbers being talked about are purely conjecture as they do not know how many copies we have printed and distributed each day.

“Our numbers will remain confidential for the foreseeable future but we can say that sales of the Independent at £1 are unaffected.”

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