MGN warns staff: strike and you will lose your bonus

Trinity Mirror has warned journalists on its London-based nationals that taking part in strike action planned to start this afternoon will see them removed from the company’s annual bonus scheme.

The company cautioned staff working on the three titles published by its Mirror Group Newspapers division that joining the planned two-hour walkout between 5pm and 7pm would also result in pay being docked.

The warnings came ahead of the British Association of Journalists union last night cancelling the stoppages it had planned for today on the Sunday Mirror and The People as “as a gesture of goodwill”.

The union is pressing on with today’s planned walkout on the Daily Mirror and further two-hour stoppages tomorrow on the Sunday Mirror and The People.

An internal memo sent to staff ahead of the BAJ’s decision to halt some of its action highlights the determination of management at Trinity Mirror’s nationals division to dampen enthusiasm to join the strike.

In addition to the threats to dock pay and take away bonus-entitlement, staff were warned that “anyone calling in sick on strike days, who would normally be working a shift, will be assumed to be taking part in strike action”.

In the memo, Mark Hollinshead, managing director of Trinity Mirror’s nationals, told those involved in the strike that they must leave MGN’s Canary Wharf headquarters for the duration of the protest.

Today’s strike action is the first in a series of six two-hour walkouts scheduled to take place over the course of the next three weeks.

Despite the planned strike action, Hollinshead said management remained “committed to working with the BAJ in order to resolve this situation”.

“It is clear from the result that nearly 90 per cent of you do not wish to participate in the planned strike action,” the memo added.

“Out of a total editorial headcount of 478 only 50 staff voted to take strike action – just over 10 per cent of staff – and 33 voted against.”

Of the 146 BAJ members who were balloted, 84 took part in the vote with 50 voting in favour of action, 33 voting against and one invalid vote.

Some 40 members of editorial staff at MGN are in the National Union of Journalists. They have not held any strike ballot and it is not clear what role, if any, they will play in today’s strike.

The strike ballot process was set in motion when Trinity Mirror announced plans in June to cut around 200 editorial jobs across its three London-based national newspapers.

Around 60 casuals are expected to be dropped with the remaining 140 cuts coming from the staff journalists – reducing the total editorial workforce (including casuals) from its current level of 554.

Press Gazette understands that around 68 staff journalists have volunteered to leave the company, of which 32 have so-far been approved by management.

Trinity Mirror is proposing to adopt a multimedia newsroom similar to those introduced at its regional newspaper centres and outsource much of the subbing of the three newspapers to the Press Association operation in Howden, Yorkshire.

In the memo, Hollinshead added that he hoped staff understood that the company was going through ‘a difficult transitional period’to introduce a multimedia newsroom that would ‘safeguard the future’of MGN’s titles.

The BAJ quoted Henry V in a stirring missive sent out to members last night ahead of the strike:

“When the blast of war blows in our ears, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage, then lend the eye a terrible aspect,” the bulletin from the union stated.

It added: “The stoppage from 5pm – 7pm is unlikely to halt publication of the Daily Mirror, but it will let management know that fair-natured employees are outraged at the destruction of our jobs and our beloved newspapers.”

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