Newsquest staff outraged by two-week move of pay date

By Sarah Lagan

Newsquest journalists all over the country are up in arms over a group-wide decision to change pay dates from the 15th to the 26th of the month, which the NUJ believes will pocket the company £250,000 in interest.

About 60 journalists working on Newsquest’s Northern Echo, Darlington & Stockton Times and Advertiser free series have begun grievance procedures after realising they will have to find ways of bridging the two weeks they will be without pay, while having to change their standing orders and other outgoing payments. Grievance procedures are also underway in Bolton, Bury, south London and Southampton.

The NUJ said Newsquest has offered no compensation to date, but that it inferred it would "look favourably" on individual cases. A series of "information sessions" at the Northern Echo are being arranged to explain the changes.

At present, staff are paid after two weeks when they start. It is understood the company told staff the decision to move to a month in arrears was made to avoid people getting paid money to which they were not entitled when leaving the company after the pay date, but before the end of the second week.

One insider told Press Gazette: "The reason being given for the change is that too many people are being overpaid when they leave. Since everyone must give a month’s notice, it seems that we are all to be penalised for the shortcomings of the payroll department. No doubt Newsquest will force through the pay date change first, while underpaid journalists are too fearful for their jobs to stand up and be counted."

NUJ national organiser Barry Fitzpatrick added: "The company could simply reclaim money paid wrongfully to staff.

"This is going to cause a lot of hardship for some people, especially those on low pay, but Newsquest hasn’t come across with any adequate compensation or bridging arrangements. This will improve its cashflow by nearly a quarter of a million pounds of interest."

■ The Oxford Mail, also owned by Newsquest, is to lose its second edition, leaving it with just one printed at 5am.

Newsquest would not comment.

Lancashire Evening Telegraph OFFICES TO CLOSE?

Newsquest is considering closing the Lancashire Evening Telegraph’s offices in Accrington, Burnley and Darwen.

Jan Lever, managing director at Newsquest Bolton and Bury, told staff in a memo leaked to Press Gazette: "The downturn in advertising revenues experienced by the company last year has continued through to 2006, and this has led to a review of the business’s operating structure to achieve cost savings."

It was proposed that editorial staff would be relocated to the LET’s head office in Blackburn.

A 30-day consultation process with staff has begun.

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