Group-wide vote for strike over Newsquest pay freeze

A ballot of NUJ members at Newsquest found eight in 10 are prepared to strike if they are not given a pay rise this year.

The union claims that while Newsquest does not have an official group-wide pay freeze no chapel has yet reported being made a pay offer, with most being told the situation will be reviewed at the end of March.

The NUJ declined to reveal how many journalists took part in the vote, which was not an official ballot.

Newsquest has not given its staff a pay rise in three of the past four past years despite profits at US owners Gannett rising 15 per cent to £82.5 million in the same period, said the union.

The NUJ’s ballot asked: ‘Would you support your chapel taking strike action in a dispute with management over a refusal by them to make a pay offer for 2012?’

A total of 82 per cent of those balloted said yes and 18 per cent said no.

The chapels were also asked: ‘Do you have confidence in Gannett Co. Inc. as the owner of Newsquest newspaper titles and associated websites on the UK?’

The vote was 95 per cent saying no and 5 per cent saying yes.

The union believes its ballot sends a message to management that ‘staff are not prepared to put up with these conditions and also suffer the hardship of a pay freeze”.

Journalists in Cheshire and Merseyside can earn as little as £14,500 and staff throughout the group are being asked to take unpaid leave referred to as ‘furloughs”, according to the NUJ.

It claimed Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson, which it described as Newsquest’s ‘elusive UK chief”, has a salary package worth £612,000 with an additional stock options bonus of £200,000 and 61,000 shares.

Davidson was asked to comment on the claims but had not responded at the time of publication.

Bob Smith, FoC of the Newsquest Group Chapel, said: ‘This overwhelming vote of no confidence in Gannett’s ownership of our local newspapers and websites demonstrates the despair of our members who are trying to maintain a decent level of journalism in the face of relentless cuts.

‘The resounding majority prepared to strike to defend wages shows the determination not to let Newsquest bosses excuse themselves from paying a rise for the third time in four years.

‘Newsquest managers need to realise the strength of feeling of journalists as we near the date they set to review their decision to freeze pay. Our members are sick of hearing hollow promises and excuses from a company that is, let’s not forget, still very profitable.”

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