More pay strike action planned at Newsquest

By Jon Slattery

Glover: demands are unrealistic

Newsquest is facing more strike action over pay at a second regional newspaper centre on top of the dispute at Bradford.

Journalists at Newsquest Kendal, which publishes the Westmorland Gazette and the Lancaster Citizen, this week rejected an annual pay rise of £325 and voted to call three two-day strikes in February.

The NUJ says it represents 27 out of the 30 journalists employed by Newsquest Kendal and claims the average union member’s wage is around £17,000 a year.

The first of a series of two-day strikes was due to start at Newsquest Bradford, which publishes the daily Telegraph & Argus and a series of weekly papers, on Thursday.

The NUJ was due to meet management at 3pm on Thursday for further talks, but refused to call off the strike action in advance of the meeting. Union members have rejected a 2 per cent pay offer and are seeking a rise of £2,000 per head.

Bradford managing director David Coates said: “All our journalists are fully aware that the local economy is struggling, and that both our profits and our revenues have fallen dramatically in the last year. It is deeply disappointing that a minority of our journalists should choose to take action, which can only damage the company.

“Despite movement on our part, the chapel has so far refused to modify its claim in any way and, in fact, has added further demands at a late stage.”

Coates also condemned a decision by the NUJ to write to advertisers about the dispute, and accused the NUJ’s northern regional organiser, Miles Barter, of “misquoting details of our negotiations to the press”.

Mike Glover, editor/publisher of Westmorland Gazette Newspapers, claimed the NUJ had made an “unrealistic” demand for a 9.5 per cent rise at a time of enormous uncertainty over the economy.

He said: “After our initial offer the NUJ went straight for an industrial action ballot. Following our meetings, the company revised and restructured its offer so that each journalist would receive the same monetary increase.

“This had the effect of increasing the total amount available and helping the least well paid.

“We very much regret their decision to strike, particularly as our other employees have all accepted a similar increase. But we continue to talk to the local chapel representatives in the hope of coming to an agreement that means the union calls off its threatened action.”

Barter said he had made clear to the Bradford management that the union’s claim was an “opening salvo” in the negotiating process.

He added: “Newsquest management’s claim that they are operating in difficult economic circumstances is no wonder. They are taking millions of pounds out of the UK economy and giving it to their shareholders in the US.” Newsquest is owned by the US publisher Gannett.

Jon Slattery

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