Journalists at the Milton Keynes Citizen have agreed a three per cent pay rise and will join management in a working group on editorial quality following months of negotiation and six days of strike action.
The Johnston Press-owned weekly was hit by two separate bouts of strike action in January following stalled pay talks and staff concerns over working conditions and editorial quality.
NUJ mother of chapel at the paper Karen Jeffery said eariler this month that staff were overstretched and understaffed. She said: ‘We are all on a hamster wheel, running like fury but not getting anywhere.” The chapel had previously rejected a three per cent deal.
The new working group on editorial quality will include both journalists and managers and according to the NUJ ‘will investigate what improvements are needed to maintain and strengthen quality journalism at the Johnston Press titles in Milton Keynes”.
The pay deal of a three per cent increase on 2007’s pay level will be backdated to April last year – when negotiations were scheduled to end. A condition of the deal is that immediate negotiations will begin on a pay deal for 2008. Bigger pay rises will go to new starters and those on lower pay.
NUJ national organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: ‘NUJ members at the Citizen are pleased that management has recognised journalists’ concerns about investment in their local papers. When fewer journalists are being called upon to fill ever more column inches, there is a clear danger that quality will suffer.
‘It’s vital that the new working group takes a serious look at what must be done to ensure the Citizen and its sister titles continue to offer the very best service to the people of Milton Keynes.
“Now that last year’s pay dispute has been settled, we’re looking forward to constructive negotiations on 2008 pay that will ensure journalists at the paper can continue to concentrate on what they do best: reporting the news rather than making it.’