Two-day strike threat at Telegraph

Friday deadline for pay talks

Telegraph Group journalists have threatened a two-day strike unless management comes to the negotiating table by next Friday.

As the future ownership of the titles is decided in a US courtroom, journalists are maintaining they want a rise of more than the 3 per cent currently on offer.

NUJ Father of Chapel Charlie Methven said: “We want to discuss this issue. Eight per cent is our aspiration but we never expected that the 8 per cent would be met.

“What we’ve been looking for all along is a decent negotiation. They’ve refused to go to Acas, refused to have meaningful discussions with us, refused to budge an inch, not just on the 3 per cent rise but on various other issues, such as equalisation of holidays across the staff. They are refusing to move on everything to the point where I think we are almost unable to avoid a strike.

“There’s no question the chapel would look very favourably on any shift in their position as a sign that they are willing to talk to their staff.”

Provisional strike dates have been set for 2 and 3 March.

On Monday and Tuesday Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland gave a series of morale-boosting talks to staff.

Methven said: “The chapel as a whole is behind Martin and supportive of him as an editor. It would be one of the sadnesses of this strike if it was to damage him at an early stage of his editorship, which is something we don’t want to do.”

Editorial director Kim Fletcher said: “We have had negotiations because, in the course of them, we’ve raised casual payments as requested. We’ve said that we don’t want people doing regular shifts in the newsroom on less than £110 per shift and we’ve gone through our accounts and shown that our staff are, in many cases, rather better off than the union imagined.”

He added: “Who benefits from a strike and who suffers? The management doesn’t suffer from a strike, because we are going to have new owners. It’s not Conrad Black because he’s selling his stake. It’s not Hollinger International because it is conducting a sale. The only one that suffers is The Daily Telegraph newspaper.”

 

US court to rule on sale of Hollinger International shares

Three months after Lord Black stepped down as chairman of the Telegraph Group’s parent company, Hollinger International, the complex corporate tussle for control of his publishing empire was nearing a possible conclusion this week.

In the US, a three-day court action in Delaware was taking place to decide whether Black had the right to sell his controlling stake in Hollinger International to the Barclay brothers. Meanwhile, investment bank Lazard has received bids to sell off Hollinger’s various newspapers to the highest bidders if Black loses his case.

Last month Black agreed to sell his 30 per cent stake in Hollinger International (carrying 73 per cent of the voting rights) to the Barclays in a deal worth £251m.

He was ousted as Hollinger International chairman in November and hit with a £111m law suit after being accused of taking unauthorised millions out of the company.

The auction of Hollinger’s assets triggered by Black’s exit reached its closing date last week, with Express Newspapers and the Daily Mail & General Trust lodging bids for the Telegraph Group.

Private equity groups are also thought to have tabled bids but, depending on the outcome of the legal machinations in Delaware, they all may come to nothing. If the judge rules in Black’s favour, the sale of his controlling stake to the Barclays is likely to go through and the auction will be off.

In another twist last week, Black counter-sued the Hollinger International board for £341m after he claimed its allegations of impropriety had made him “a loathsome laughing stock”.

By Dominic Ponsford

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