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July 5, 2023updated 07 Jul 2023 9:00am

National World journalists pass no confidence vote in chairman David Montgomery

Unionised staff said they urged shareholders to "intervene as a matter of urgency".

By Bron Maher

National Union of Journalists members at National World have passed a no confidence vote in company chairman David Montgomery, urging shareholders to “intervene as a matter of urgency”.

The votes, which were delivered by 16 chapels representing National World journalists, come as the company seeks to cut a net of 21 staff while simultaneously delivering a maiden dividend.

The NUJ said Montgomery had “lost the confidence of hundreds of journalists”.

What’s happening at National World?

Some 34 jobs at National World are set to be axed across local titles and the company’s eponymous national news website, nationalworld.com, and 50 journalists have been put at risk of redundancy.

The NUJ said that “while some of those affected might be redeployed due to the creation of 12 new roles and one existing editor vacancy, it is expected that at least 21 journalists will be left without jobs”.

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A source told Press Gazette last month that National World staff had been “completely shocked and blindsided by this move, no one saw it coming. I expect a lot of staff will now look to leave, even if their job isn’t at risk”.

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No minimum payment has been proposed for journalists made redundant with less than two years’ service. The NUJ said: “Journalists yet to reach settlements on their pay had been given until June 30 to accept a below-inflation offer of 4.5 percent or risk the withdrawal of back pay to April 1 when a deal is eventually agreed.”

Despite this 13 of the 14 recognised chapels still involved in negotiations rejected the pay offer. The chapels and National World are now proceeding to conciliation service ACAS to resolve the dispute.

NUJ national organiser Laura Davidson said: “Our chapels want to see real engagement on issues around unfair pay that our reps have been raising for three years now, and more meaningful recognition of the cost of living crisis that is impacting NUJ members across the board.”

[Read more: National World to cut 25 editorial jobs with 14 roles created – NUJ]

Why has the union passed a no confidence vote in David Montgomery?

Last week National World employees were told the company was withdrawing a planned deputy editor role at nationalworld.com, which the journalists’ union said was followed by “the discovery that the role was being withdrawn so that Mr Montgomery himself could play a more hands-on role in the day-to-day management of the website”.

National World’s maiden dividend is due to be paid to shareholders on Wednesday (5 July). The NUJ said Montgomery would be among the biggest beneficiaries, earning £22,000 payable through shares linked to a management performance scheme and £96,000 through shares purchased by Montgomery Media Ltd in order to launch National World plc. The total dividend issued will be £1.36m.

Chapels representing staff at titles including The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, the News Letter, Yorkshire Evening Post, Sheffield Star, Sunderland Echo and Edinburgh Evening News delivered no confidence votes.

The NUJ said BBC-funded local democracy reporters hosted at National World “have also said they have no confidence” in Montgomery’s leadership.

An NUJ National World Group chapel spokesperson said: “The board must see that allowing a major shareholder to not only serve as executive chairman and the effective lead for all editorial strategy, but to also appoint himself as the de facto editor of the company’s flagship national website is a recipe for disaster.

“Where is the very necessary scrutiny coming from when one man holds so much sway? If the board will not exercise that crucial responsibility, then the other shareholders must intervene as a matter of urgency.”

Press Gazette has approached Montgomery for his reaction. A National World spokesperson declined to comment.

Who is David Montgomery?

Montgomery has been a high-profile media executive for several decades. Once editor of the News of the World, he subsequently became chief executive of the Mirror Group, leading the business to take a stake in the young Independent newspaper.

After leaving his media investment vehicle Mecom under pressure from shareholders in 2010, Montgomery bought the regional titles held by Daily Mail publisher DMGT and founded regional publisher Local World. That company was bought in 2015 by Trinity Mirror, now rebranded Reach.

Montgomery re-emerged in 2020 with National World, which he used as a vehicle to acquire the steeply discounted former Johnston Press/JPI Media titles.

[Read more: National World CEO David Montgomery sets sights on The Independent and says £1.2m a year from Duopoly ‘not enough’]

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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