'Pig-sick' journalists target executives in pay protest

By Dominic Ponsford

NUJ members donned pig masks in a pay protest at the Newspaper
Society AGM and lunch at the Savoy, London, on Tuesday. As executives
tucked into into asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon on buckwheat blini
followed by grilled breast of guinea fowl, protestors outside donned
pig masks and waved placards saying “Pig sick of low pay”.

According to the NUJ, little of the regional newspaper industry’s
£3bn a year in advertising revenues trickles down to the pay packets of
journalists.

General secretary Jeremy Dear said: “While
pig-headed executives bury their snouts in the corporate trough, they
turn a blind eye to the hard-working journalists who help them make
such a success of their newspapers.”

In a leaflet handed out to
executives, the NUJ claimed many journalists start on £12,000 a year or
less, their living standards are often below the Council of Europe
Decency Threshold and they have little chance of obtaining a mortgage.

More
than 200 senior executives from the regional newspaper industry
attended the meeting, including Johnston Press chief executive Tim
Bowdler, who earned £723,000 in 2003, Newquest boss Paul Davidson, who
was paid £399,700 in 2003, and former Trinity Mirror regionals boss
Stephen Parker, who left the company with a £538,000 pay-off in July
last year.

Newspaper Society director David Newell said: “The
Newspaper Society is not involved in setting pay levels for
journalists. This is a matter for individual publishers and varies
across the regions, depending on local employment and business
conditions and employees’ individual experience and skills. The number
of journalists employed in the regional press hasgrown significantly in
recent years – up from 8,000 in 1996 to 13,000 in 2003.

“There is
still great demand for journalist positions throughout the regional
press. This is a dynamic and innovative sector which has been investing
millions in the future success of its newspapers – new printing
presses, colour, systems and, not least, training.”

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