Weekly journalists vote for seven more days of strikes

Dodson: wants union to go to Acas

NUJ journalists at Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers (North) are stepping up their industrial action and planning a further seven days of strikes.

Miles Barter, the union’s northern organiser, said the company had asked the journalists – who stagged a two-day strike last week- to suspend their current action but had offered only a new draft disputes procedure in return.

"The chapel was so cross it voted unanimously to extend the strike," he said. The next strike will last from 30 April to 8 May.

GMWN is exasperated that the union will not go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to settle the dispute, despite the company agreeing to be bound by an Acas ruling on a pay award. It has offered 2.5 per cent (above the inflation rate) and the union has asked for 7.5 per cent.

GMWN, owned by Guardian Media Group, has also accused the union of turning the issue into one of derecognition. In the course of negotiations, the company derecognised the NUJ when, it claims, the chapel refused to stick to the disputes procedure.

Mark Dodson, chief executive of Cheshire and Lancashire Newspapers, told Press Gazette: "This is not a strike about recognition. This is a strike about pay. The NUJ stepped outside the disputes procedure contained in our current house agreement which made the agreement completely worthless. At that point, we terminated that agreement and by default, derecognised the union.

"But we have made it clear we WANT to recognise the NUJ. It suits their purpose to push this as a derecognition case. They don’t want to face up to the fact that we are prepared to go to Acas to settle this dispute and accept compulsory and binding arbitration. Why won’t the NUJ also agree to that?"

Barter said: "We are continually asking the management to talk to us about pay and they say they will only talk to us about getting a new disputes procedure."

The union will not go to Acas, he stated, because it feels that journalists’ pay is so far behind other industries that the normal criteria Acas would look at would not apply. "We want to negotiate a sensible deal with the management," he stressed.

Dodson, speaking with strike pickets outside his building, said his newspapers were coming out despite the strike and he was confident they would still do so throughout a longer strike: "We will have to plan accordingly."

This week, leaders of the International Federation of Journalists, representing eight European countries, wrote to Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, to express "outrage" at the derecognition decision. They said they were shocked to hear that journalists on the weeklies were paid between £10,000 and £17,000 and added: "The Guardian has a reputation throughout Europe as a paper that exposes injustice and criticises exploiters and yet one of your sister companies is behaving like an anti-union employer."

Jean Morgan

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