The regional press is facing its first journalists’ pay strike since the NUJ began to win back recognition.
Members of Newsquest’s 60-strong Bradford chapel voted this week to hold one half-day and two full-day strikes in support of their 7.5 per cent pay claim. They have rejected a pay offer of 2.5 per cent.
The decision to back strike action came at a meeting of the chapel on Monday at which 81 per cent supported taking industrial action up to and including a strike.
The first half-day strike is planned for next Wednesday morning and the two one-day strikes on 25 and 31 January.
The journalists involved work on the Telegraph & Argus, Bradford, the Keighley News, Craven Herald, Wharfedale Observer and Ilkley Gazette.
Miles Barter, the NUJ’s northern organiser, claimed a union survey of Newsquest’s Bradford journalists showed they averaged annual salaries of £17,900, which was 21 per cent lower than the national average wage of £22,000.
"We don’t think our people should be paid less than the average wage but it would be unrealistic to claim 21 per cent so we have asked for 7.5 per cent.
"This would cost Newsquest in Bradford less than £200,000 a year. It has made an annual profit of £6m."
Tim Blott, Newsquest Bradford’s managing director, told Press Gazette: "Newsquest Bradford was one of the first regional newspaper publishing companies to voluntarily recognise the NUJ for collective bargaining.
"It is therefore very disappointing that the reaction from the union is strike action in support of an unrealistic pay demand at a time when job losses are widespread across the media industry."
He added: "The company has put forward a perfectly reasonable pay offer of 2.5 per cent which is well ahead of the current rate of inflation. This has been accepted by the majority of our staff and indeed other trade union members from the print union. It also reflects the fragile nature of the local economy in Bradford, which has been hit hard by the recent race riots and the aftermath of 11 September." Recent pay settlements include 2.7 per cent at the Barrow Evening Mail and 3 per cent at the Rotherham Advertiser.
By Jon Slattery