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Reach rejects staff pay rise request after chief executive awarded nearly £1m in shares

Mirror, Express and Star publisher Reach has refused a five per cent pay rise over two years for national newspaper staff in ongoing salary negotiations, despite awarding nearly £1m in shares to its chief executive.

Jim Mullen was awarded £949,999 in ordinary shares in the company in December as part of its long-term incentive plan, four months after he took over from Simon Fox as chief executive.

Staff across the publisher’s national newspaper titles have asked for a five per cent pay rise over two years, but this has been rejected by management.

Both the British Association of Journalists and the National Union of Journalists dismissed a counter offer of just over one per cent from Reach.

A two per cent pay rise for this year has since been offered to Mirror group staff, in line with previous years, who will hold a ballot on the offer on Friday. The BAJ is the recognised union for Mirror staff.

The National Union of Journalists, representing staff on the Express and Star, is still waiting on a new offer and has told management that it must improve upon two per cent to be considered seriously.

The shares awarded to Mullen, who previously worked at News International (now News UK) and betting firm Ladbroke Coral, are double his base salary for 2019. Each of the 972,364 shares is worth 97.7p.

A Reach spokesperson said: “Remuneration for executive directors is set by the Board Remuneration Committee and the policy is voted on by shareholders.

“Long-term incentive plan awards are subject to clear and well documented performance measures to align interests with strict longer term vesting and holding periods.”

The BAJ has expressed surprise at the size of the award to Mullen.

General secretary Matthew Myatt said: “It does seem to be at odds with statements I have seen for the company where they wouldn’t commit to enhanced pay rises for staff, when quite clearly 972,364 shares to one individual is a significant sum of money.”

Last week Reach announced job losses as it consolidates its Mirror titles to create a seven-day operation, already seen at the Express and Star newspapers.

The news publisher, which is the largest in the UK and owns a number of regional daily and weekly newspapers, has cut large numbers of staff in recent years.

Mullen is set to outline his strategy for the company later this month, when it releases its full-year financial results for 2019. A source said he is seen as an investor and growth creator rather than a cost-cutting chief executive.

Mullen’s predecessor, Fox, was paid a base salary £520,000 in 2018, rising to £949,000 with benefits. Mullen’s salary will be revealed with the company’s accounts this month.

Reach made an adjusted pre-tax profit of £141.9m in 2018 on turnover of £723.9m.

Picture: Reach

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