The News staff to ballot for strike action over pay

Journalists at The News in Portsmouth have voted to ballot for strike action over pay.

The chapel rejected Johnston’s basic pay offer of 2.75 per cent and is also protesting over a recruitment freeze, reduction in staff and increased workloads journalists say they have incurred.

NUJ father of chapel in Portsmouth, David Maddox, said: “This vote represents a growing frustration with management which has been building up over the past few years.

“Journalists at The News are fed up with seeing the real value of their wages decrease year on year. They also believe that the conditions created by what amounts to a recruitment freeze and reduction of staff at a time when more is being asked of journalists amounts to exploitation.”

Maddox continued: “Johnston management representatives keep telling us that times are too tough for a fair settlement.

However, the group still has millions to spend on takeovers of newspapers such as The Scotsman and enormous expansions of printing works at centres such as Portsmouth.

“Neither The News nor the Johnston Group give the appearance of being short of money. This is probably because profit margins are still above 30 per cent.”

The union also voiced frustration over its belief that local pay negotiations are being directed by the management at the Johnston Group headquarters in Edinburgh, rather than local management.

Each Johnston local centre has received the same offer the union says.

Regional managing director in Portsmouth, Gary Fearon, declined to comment.

■ Meanwhile, the NUJ is looking into why the Cambridge Evening News has not contacted the Department of Trade and Industry after announcing up to 20 jobs are to be cut at the paper as the company seeks to save money.

The company is obliged to notify the secretary of state for trade of any redundancies in excess of 20.

NUJ national organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: “The chapel will raise the fact that there has been no HR1 form served and will be requesting theinformation provided on the form.”

Cambridge Evening News owner Iliffe News & Media would not comment on the form, but said in a statement: “It is with enormous regret that we are being forced to follow the path of so many others in reducing the size of our workforce.”

The 20 jobs will come out of a total workforce of more than 430.

There is also a major reorganisation at Iliffe’s Herts and Essex Newspapers.

It is understood that under the proposals there will one news editor and editor post for the publisher’s Mercury series and the role of editor for the Herts and Essex Observer could be merged with that of the group’s editor-in-chief under the proposals.

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