'Strike could be extremely damaging to FT brand'

Financial Times journalists have warned the company’s chief executive Marjorie Scardino the paper’s pay dispute could be ‘extremely damaging to the FT brand and to relations in the newsroom”.

Journalists at the paper voted in favour of strike action on Monday in response to a management offer to increase pay across the board by 2 per cent – but with further money set aside for this year’s settement to be used as merit pay for staff retention at the managing editor’s discretion.

NUJ members say the offer is potentially ‘deeply divisive’but management hit back claiming the vote for industrial action was ‘unwarranted and unreasonable”.

“The proposed salary increase of 3.5 per cent – with 2-2.5 per cent for all editorial staff and 1 per cent for merit, plus a bonus, compares favourably with the rest of the industry and we have avoided any compulsory redundancies at a time when news organisations around the world are facing exceptional challenges,” it said.

Management also struck a defiant tone by noting it had ‘strong contingency plans in place to ensure business as usual at the FT’if the strike went ahead.

Scardino was later quoted saying she was ‘saddened’at the prospect of a strike, adding: ‘A 3.5 per cent pay rise and no compulsory redundancies – I don’t really know what else we can do.”

In an open letter to Scardino sent yesterday, FT NUJ father of chapel Steve Bird said he feared she had been ‘misinformed”.

‘If FT staff were being offered 3.5 per cent across the board and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies there would almost certainly be no strike threat,’he said.

‘The vast majority of FT editorial staff have received a 2 per cent pay rise. A handful of others and some non-journalists have received 2.5 per cent.

‘The other 1 per cent could be offered as part of the pay offer (as we have asked to happen) but has not been. It is being kept back for use to ‘retain staff’ and to reward certain individuals in a non-transparent way at the sole discretion of the managing editor.

‘By no definition could this be described as part of the pay offer, with no guarantees how or even if it is paid out.”

Bird claimed this was the fourth year in a row that staff have had a below inflation pay rise and said this was ‘the reason that NUJ members recently voted by a three to one majority to strike over this issue”.

He also suggested that there had been no deal to rule out compulsory redundancies and that journalists working on the paper had spent the four months to January ‘living with the threat of compulsory redundancies”.

‘It was only after vigorous negotiation by the NUJ chapel that finally got the threat removed,’he said.

His letter continued: ‘Last but not least, despite having been told throughout our negotiations that there was simply ‘no money’, with dark hints about the FT’s failure to make a profit, we find we have been made fools of. Thanks to FT journalists who are worth an extra 2 per cent, FT Group profits are up 27 per cent to £76m.”

He added: ‘FT journalists are extremely unhappy that we have been forced to take this stand in the face of management’s refusal to enter real negotiations, your intervention could be timely and help avoid a confrontation that would be extremely damaging to the FT brand and to relations in the newsroom.’

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