Newsquest journalists in Essex opt for strike ballot

Newsquest journalists in Essex are being balloted for industrial action in protest at the company’s alleged failure to negotiate on pay.

The NUJ said it was also concerned about Newsquest plans to impose a single pay anniversary for all editorial staff, a move which it said means some members could be forced to wait until June 2013 before being considered for a pay rise.

Those balloting for industrial action include editorial staff from Essex County Newspapers in Colchester, which publishes the Colchester Weekly News and the Essex County Standard, and Newsquest South East Essex.

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Sally King, mother of the Newsquest South Essex chapel, claimed some staff were ‘having to take second jobs just to meet bills”.

‘This year alone at this centre, we have had two members of staff leave the profession because they felt they just couldn’t afford to work here,’she said.

‘We recognise the economy is in a bad way and the company is not making the profits it has enjoyed in the past, but it is still a very profitable business, owned by one of the world’s most successful publishing companies. We believe more money could be made available to editorial staff.”

Will Lodge, father of the Newsquest North Essex chapel, said: ‘After two years of a pay freeze and a paltry two per cent rise last year, members are feeling the squeeze on their wallets.

‘Wages are now 13 per cent below what they would be if they had matched inflation, equalling a £2,670 real-terms pay cut for someone on a £20,000 salary in 2008. This is without taking into account other factors such as increased tax contributions.”

He added: ‘Members are not opposed to standardising their pay dates, but are extremely concerned that people with a pay review in the second half of the year face waiting until June 2013 to be considered for a pay rise.

‘The threat of a pay freeze now or a possible pay rise in June also feels like a carrot being dangled in front of our noses, with no guarantee it won’t be snatched away to help plug holes elsewhere in the budget.

‘When we see reports of how much top Newsquest and Gannett executives are being paid, it makes us wonder how much of a hit profit margins are taking compared to the hit on our wages.

‘To deny those on the ground making the company profitable a pay rise to line the pockets of a faceless executive is bordering on the criminal.”

In December the NUJ accused Newsquest of introducing a 2012 pay freeze ‘by stealth”, one week after Trinity Mirror announced there would be no pay reviews held this year.

Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson was unavailable for comment.

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