Mirror staff are being polled on whether they would support industrial action against a proposed pay rise of 1%.
All eligible staff at the Mirror national titles were told last month they would receive an above-inflation 1% pay increase from April as part of a package of benefits.
Some 97.5% of 158 staff from the Mirror’s union bargaining unit subsequently voted for a higher pay rise.
The bargaining unit contains print and online staff who are members of the British Association of Journalists, National Union of Journalists, as well as non-union members.
A poll, seen by Press Gazette, now being circulated by BAJ to all members of the bargaining unit reveals the union has submitted a costed pay claim seeking a 5% pay rise.
“We believe this is affordable and fair considering the profound changes brought about by restructuring, redundancies, home working and the temporary pay cut last summer,” it said.
“In response, the company told us that they have assessed the market, and in line with inflation, have agreed that a 1% increase is a fair and sustainable pay rise to offer employees”.
Reach has recently announced the closure of all but 15 of its offices – plus the halving of its Canary Wharf national base (pictured) from two to one floors – with most staff to work from home the majority of the time post-pandemic.
In the past year it has implemented nationwide restructures which put around 550 jobs at risk as it sought to break down silos between its national and regional titles and remove duplication, and made use of temporary staff pay cuts and furlough to get through the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
A Reach spokesperson said: “We’re pleased to be coming out of this very challenging time as a business in a position to reinstate the bonus scheme and offer our colleagues an increase.
“We have only been able to do this thanks to the hard work of everyone at Reach, which is why we have also introduced a number of other benefits, including the Employee Share Award. We believe that these incentives will encourage every colleague to feel invested in our success and accelerate our strategy going forward.”
BAJ’s message to staff pointed out the 1% rise comes as Reach praises staff for their work during the pandemic, during which many staff have worked entirely from home and dealt with “additional costs, longer working hours, unprecedented work challenges and stressful personal circumstances”.
Chief executive Jim Mullen said last month: “Reach has become a stronger business in 2020 thanks to the ongoing hard work and commitment of our people during this unprecedented year.”
BAJ, the main union for Mirror staff, also claimed Reach had departed from its usual process for pay talks by announcing the 1% offer before entering negotiations. It said this suggested the offer was a “done deal” when it was not.
It is now gauging the strength of feeling among staff by asking if they would like a ballot on possible industrial action if the company is not prepared to review and increase its offer.
Press Gazette has also heard from staff frustrated that the 1% pay increase came after the company ended up spending £15.5m on exiting a property deal on the former home of the Liverpool Echo due to delays and cost overruns put down to Covid-19.
The Consumer Prices Index, a widely used measure of inflation, rose by 0.7% in the 12 months to February.
Picture: Reuters/Russell Boyce