NUJ chapel at Doncaster Free Press rejects pay deal and considers strike action

Journalists at the Doncaster Free Press have rejected a pay offer of 3.25 per cent and criticised ‘paltry’salary levels ahead of parent company Johnston Press‘s extraordinary general meeting tomorrow.

The National Union of Journalists chapel at the paid-for weekly and its smaller sister titles said last night they would bring in conciliation service ACAS to resolve talks which began in January, before considering industrial action. Staff at the Free Press held a 13-day strike in 2006 over pay.

Staff have been offered pay rises of between 3.25 per cent and 3.6 per cent, depending on their roles.

Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler will meet with shareholders tomorrow to persuade them to back a £212 million rights issue, announced earlier this month to tackle the company’s £700m of debt.

In a 136-page document given to shareholders ahead of the meeting, the company said it has ‘satisfactory’relations with staff and trade unions, a claim NUJ officials at Doncaster challenge.

In a statement the chapel said: ‘Staff are simply not prepared to see their paltry pay levels decrease in real terms each year by accepting rises which don’t even keep pace with inflation.

‘Union members are also disgusted at the company’s attempt to ramp up workloads at the cost of both editorial quality and staff welfare by spawning numerous websites without adequate resourcing. It is a short-sighted policy which is likely to drive readers – and then advertisers – away from both our print and web-based products.”

The chapel said that trainee journalists on the paper earn just over £14,000 while editorial section heads earn £23,500.

Management at the paper were unavailable for comment this morning.

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