Newsquest North East will enter pay talks with journalists at The Northern Echo and its sister weeklies, the National Union of Journalists confirmed today – raising hopes the nationwide pay freeze could thaw.
The company – and other Newsquest centres nationwide – postponed January’s planned inflation-based pay rise, blaming trading conditions.
The pay freeze, and other cutbacks, caused three days of industrial action in Darlington this week, which included a day-long compulsory chapel meeting.
But, after the action ended on Wednesday with a 90-minute compulsory chapel meeting, Newsquest North East has agreed to enter pay talks with the NUJ.
The first talks are expected to take place towards the end of next month.
NUJ regional organiser Chris Morley said: ‘What’s happened in Darlington is that, for the first time, we have got Newsquest bosses saying they will officially sit down with the NUJ and negotiate on pay for 2009.
‘We don’t recognise the pay freeze as such, as it’s clearly been imposed without negotiation – and clearly circumvents all the recognised collective bargaining processes.
‘Chapels will be putting in pay claims, and this [in Darlington] is the first time the company will be negotiating.”
Morley added: ‘The company’s agreement to open official negotiations is welcome – but it is important for management to realise that the chapel will not be short-changed in those negotiations.”
On Monday, after the all-day compulsory chapel meeting, an email from Newsquest North East managing director David Coates said all staff at the meeting would have their pay docked. That threat has since been withdrawn.