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November 4, 2022updated 14 Nov 2022 5:23am

Media strikes: Gannett journalists stage one-day walkout over ‘austerity measures’

By Andrew Kersley and Charlotte Tobitt

It’s not just tube drivers, airline workers and lawyers who are discontented with pay and conditions this year as the cost of living crisis bites.

Journalists at numerous UK and US publishers are making their voices heard through their unions as well.

So far in the UK, National Union of Journalists members at Reach and National World-owned titles in Scotland have voted for industrial action over pay and redundancies respectively, although National World subsequently called their strike off. More than 1,000 Reach journalists went on strike for one day, on 31 August, and have now accepted a revised pay offer.

Al Jazeera staff were the latest to have balloted for strike action, with dates initially set for November before management agreed a new pay deal.

And there is ongoing unease at the BBC over plans to merge the two 24-hour news channels.

In the US, journalists at Gannett, Wired and Reuters have been among those vocal at expressing their discontent this year.

We will keep this page updated with developments relating to pay offers and industrial action across the industry. If something is going on at your company you feel we should know about, please get in touch at pged@pressgazette.co.uk.

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Gannett journalists strike for one day

4/11/22: More than 200 Gannett journalists in the US are staging a one-day strike today.

The strikers work at 14 local Gannett newsrooms in states including New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Southern California.

Hundreds of other Gannett journalists at newsrooms in the likes of Austin, Florida, Ohio, Milwaukee will stage a lunchtime walkout or staging pickets in solidarity with their colleagues, according to the News Guild union.

News Guild said it was the biggest coordinated action at Gannett since it laid off 400 staff, 3% of the workforce, in August and announced further cost-cutting measures in October. On Thursday it published its Q3 earnings report, revealing details of its fourth consecutive loss-making quarter with operating revenue down 10% year-on-year.

The union said the company’s “austerity measures… are devastating local news around the country”.

News Guild president Jon Schleuss said: “Gannett is actively sabotaging our democracy by attacking its own journalists. The company has the money to invest in journalists and it should start doing that immediately instead of fighting them.”


Al Jazeera averts strike with new pay deal

1/11/22: Al Jazeera English has averted two strike days in November by its UK-based journalists after offering a new pay deal that was accepted by the NUJ.

Management proposed a 4.5% pay rise for this year and a further 4.5% increase in 2023.

The NUJ’s national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said: “It is a shame it took the threat of industrial action to bring about this settlement but nevertheless we welcome the company’s decision…”


Al Jazeera journalists vote to strike

24/10/22: NUJ members at Al Jazeera have voted to strike over pay and are expected to walk out on 4 and 20 November.

The group chapel revealed that, on an 80% turnout, 96.97% of those who voted backed strike action while 100% called for action short of a strike.

The Al Jazeera group chapel previously rejected the company’s offer of a 4.5% pay rise plus an unconsolidated £500 for staff earning less than £50,000. It said this was a “dismal offer against a background of colossal spending elsewhere in the company”.

The NUJ asked for either a higher deal for this year, or a two-year deal of 4.5% this year and 4.5% in 2023, because of the high rate of inflation.


Reach journalists accept revised pay offer

23/9/22: Journalists at Reach have narrowly voted to accept a pay offer from the company after months of dispute and a one-day strike.

Some 1,150 national and regional journalists across the UK and Ireland went on strike for 24 hours on 31 August after turning down a 3% pay offer.

Just over a week later the NUJ agreed to take a new pay proposal from the company to its members in a consultative ballot.

Results revealed on Friday showed that 55% of members who voted accepted the offer and 45% voted against.

A total of 906 valid votes were received of 1,185 ballots issued, meaning turnout of 76.5% across NUJ members at the publisher.

A Reach spokesperson said: “After much hard work and open communication on all sides, the NUJ have accepted Reach’s latest proposal which, in addition to a proposed annual increase and a host of other important commitments, will increase pay for over 700 journalists.

“We are pleased that we have been able to work together to find a way forward and will continue to keep an open dialogue on these crucial issues in the months to come.”

According to the NUJ, the new deal will deliver “significant pay rises to over 700 journalists, many of whom are the lowest paid staff, and improved redundancy terms and conditions for many members in currently in receipt of statutory minimums.

“Including increases secured in July, it will see pay rise for these workers in deals ranging from 14 to 44 per cent across the specified roles and minimum rates.”


Al Jazeera journalists to vote on strike action

23/9/22: NUJ is balloting its members at Al Jazeera over whether they want to take strike action or action short of a strike in a row about pay.

The group chapel has rejected the company’s offer of 4.5% plus an unconsolidated £500 for staff earning less than £50,000.

The NUJ said that pay deal was “unreasonable” because inflation is at 10% and expected to remain high in 2023. It asked for either a higher deal for this year, or a two-year deal of 4.5% this year and 4.5% in 2023.

The new ballot will close on 17 October.

NUJ senior organiser Paul Siegert said: “We hope management will meet with us urgently with a pay offer that can avoid members taking industrial action.”


Three-day Reach strike postponed amid new ballot

12/9/22: A three-day strike by Reach journalists across the UK and Ireland due to be held between 14 to 16 September has been put on hold amid new negotiations between the company and the NUJ.

The NUJ has also ended a “work to rule” period at the publisher until after, if it is still needed, the funeral of The Queen on 19 September.

A ballot of staff asking whether they would like to accept a proposal on pay offered by Reach will open on 14 September and end at 12pm on 23 September.

A Reach spokesperson said: “We have been working on a number of proposals to resolve this dispute and can share that the NUJ have agreed to take a proposal to their members for ballot.

“This is a significant step and we are hopeful for a resolution.”


Al Jazeera staff to ballot over pay

7/9/22: Al Jazeera journalists are preparing to ballot for industrial action over pay after talks with management at conciliation service ACAS fell through on Wednesday.

“A recent informal ballot showed 85.29% of members are willing to take strike action over pay,” the broadcaster’s NUJ chapel tweeted. Broadcast technical staff union BECTU was also involved in the failed talks.


1,150 Reach journalists on picket lines across UK and Ireland over 3% pay offer

31/8/22: Picket lines were held by Reach journalists in London’s Canary Wharf, Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle, Oldham, Liverpool, Hull, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast and Dublin on Wednesday 31 August in the first day of their strike in protest at a 3% pay offer.

See pictures from across the country here.


Reach strike back on after last-ditch pay talks fail

30/8/22: A staff strike at Reach is back on after last-ditch pay talks between the company and the NUJ broke down over the weekend.

A proposed strike day on Friday had been postponed after the company proposed last-minute negotiations through the pay dispute arbitrator ACAS.

Hundreds of journalists will now strike for one more day than previously planned, on Wednesday 31 August and for three days in a row from Tuesday 13 September to Thursday 15 September.

They will also take part in an extended “work to rule” (meaning working only contracted hours and duties) from Thursday after Wednesday’s strike ends, and on an ongoing basis from Friday 16 September.

The NUJ said its reps had passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Reach chief executive Jim Mullen as a result as general secretary Michelle Stanistreet claimed he “kiboshed any chance of a sensible deal that addresses our members’ key priority – their consolidated pay”. NUJ members voted to reject a 3% pay offer from the company.

A Reach spokesperson said the company had offered a new career framework with clear salary progressions for journalists as part of the talks.

They said: “Over the weekend we have been in discussions with the NUJ in hope of avoiding industrial action, but unfortunately these talks have ended without agreement.

“We were able to meet the majority of requirements put forward by the NUJ and proposed an accelerated career development framework that would have set out clearer salary progression for journalists, so we are disappointed that our offer was rejected.”

Read the full story here.


NUJ calls off Scotsman strike dates

18/8/22: The NUJ has called off the strike dates it had planned at The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News for 26 August and 2 September.

Although two NUJ members at the titles have been made compulsorily redundant as part of a digital-first restructure, the union said they did not want it to pursue industrial action on their behalf.

“However, there are issues arising from the jobs losses, and we have approached the company for an urgent meeting to discuss these in detail,” NUJ national organiser for Scotland John Toner said.

Read the full story here.


BBC journalists mull strike action over channel cuts

16/8/22: Journalists at the BBC are being consulted over potential strike action in response to plans to merge the TV channels BBC News and World News, according to The Times.

Staff were told last month that the move could see 70 roles cut in its London hub, with 20 new jobs created in Washington DC. The current roster of 19 BBC News anchors in London could be cut to five, it has been reported.

In response the NUJ has started a consultative ballot with journalists to gauge whether they would support a walkout. If a majority back the idea, this could be used in negotiations with bosses before any further or more formal steps towards a strike are taken.

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