Newsquest Hampshire journalists vote for strike

Journalists at Newsquest Hampshire have balloted for strike action in protest over a company pay freeze that has lasted two years.

The National Union of Journalists said today that 78 per cent of its members at Newsquest Hampshire voted in favour of strike action, with 95 per cent voting for action short of a strike – it did not disclose how many staff took part in the ballot.

Newsquest, which is Britain’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher, has continued with its pay freeze despite a number of its rivals having restarted pay negotiations with staff following the recovery in the ad market.

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The union highlighted that despite the pay freeze Gracia Martore, chief financial officer at the company’s US parent, Gannett, said on Friday: “Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn’t make money.

‘Newsquest makes a lot of money. In fact, their margin, as I have said a couple of times, is consistent with the margin that our local US community publishing operations generate.

‘So their margins are in the high teens to low 20s. And they have consistently made money throughout the years, even in a year like last year when revenues were under as much pressure as they were.”

In addition, earlier this month figures filed at Companies House revealed that Gannett UK achieved profits before tax of £88.5m for 2009 on turnover down 25.4 per cent to £365.6m.

Operating profit for Newsquest was reported to be £71.7m for 2009, compared with an operating loss of £462,000 in 2008.

The figures also revealed that Newsquest cut more than 300 editorial jobs in 2009, reducing the number from 1,936 to 1,609.

And they also revealed that pay for the top earning director, who is not named but is understood to be Davidson, increased from £501,234 to £609,385. Payments to his pension scheme increased from £38,536 to £94,986.

Newsquest is in the midst of reducing benefits paid out to many staff by ending final salary pension payouts for existing members of the scheme.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: ‘Newsquest’s continuing attacks on its own journalists combined with greed in the boardroom has been truly exposed.

‘The business remains profitable but consistently fails to fairly reward staff.

‘It is not acceptable for the company to continue attacking pay and conditions and treat the workforce with such contempt. Our members have simply had enough and this has been shown in the ballot result.”

Press Gazette revealed on Monday that the Newsquest-owned Brighton Argus is cutting seven jobs as part of the shift of its news subbing operation to Newsquest Hampshire’s offices in Southampton.

No one at Newsquest Hampshire was available for comment.

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