Summer of strikes? BBC journalists consider strikes over channel cuts

Summer of strikes? Walkout dates for Reach and National World announced

Strikes journalists

It’s not just tube drivers, airline workers and lawyers who are discontented with pay and conditions this summer 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.

In the US, journalists at Wired and Reuters have been the most vocal at expressing their discontent.

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.


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.


National World Scotland staff to strike same day as Reach

15/8/22: Journalists at National World’s Scotsman titles have announced they will go on strike on 26 August and 2 September amid an ongoing row over compulsory redundancies.

The move means the first day of strike action by Scotsman staff will coincide with nationwide strikes also taking place at Reach titles, including the Mirror, Express and fellow Scottish outlets like the Daily Record.

Press Gazette understands that NUJ members at Reach and National World chose the days selected for industrial action and that the double strike action on 26 August was not planned by the union.

At The Scotsman and sister title Edinburgh Evening News, 29 of 45 NUJ members voted – a turnout of 64%. Of those, 27 (93%) voted yes to strike action and 26 (90%) voted for action short of a strike.

The NUJ said it would continue to negotiate with National World in an attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies by pursuing voluntary ones instead, and thus avert a strike.


Gannett journalists laid off day after walkout

15/8/22: Gannett, the biggest newspaper chain in the US, laid off an unspecified number of journalists and other staff (but estimated to be at least 35 people from 20 newsrooms) on Friday.

A spokesperson told Poynter: “We’ve been transparent about the need to evolve our operations and cost structure in line with our growth strategy while also needing to take swift action given the challenging economic environment. These staffing reductions are incredibly difficult, and we are grateful for the contributions of our departing colleagues.”

The layoffs came a day after hundreds of union members at more than 25 newsrooms across Gannett staged a one-hour lunchtime walkout in response to apparent threats from executives that job cuts were coming.

Earlier in August Gannett’s second-quarter results showed a 7% drop in revenues to $749m and profits (EBITDA) down 56% to $51m due to “legacy print revenue declines and inflationary pressures on labor, newsprint, distribution and fuel costs”.

Gannett is also the parent company of UK regional publisher Newsquest.


Reach journalists vote to strike

12/8/22: Reach journalists across the UK have voted to strike over a 3% pay offer that the NUJ described as “meagre”.

The affected days are 26 and 31 August and 14-15 September, with action short of a strike following “work to rule” taking place between 1 to 13 September. However the NUJ has said it remains open to further discussions.

Reach said it had contingency plans to keep disruption to its news titles “at a minimum” during any strike.

Read the full story here.


National World staff vote for strike action

10/8/22: Journalists at National World in Scotland, on titles including The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, have voted for strike action in a row over compulsory redundancies.

At The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, 29 of 45 NUJ members voted – a turnout of 64.4%. Of those, 27 (93%) voted yes to strike action and 26 (90%) voted for action short of a strike.

In a second ballot for the weekly titles, which include The Falkirk Herald, and Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 23 NUJ members were balloted and 15 voted – a turnout of 65.2%. The NUJ said ten of those (66%) voted in favour of strike action, while 11 (73%) were in favour of action short of a strike.

The NUJ said it would continue to negotiate with National World in an attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies by pursuing voluntary ones instead, and thus avert a strike. The union now has six months in which it could seek to launch industrial action.

A National World spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is a difficult time for all involved however are disappointed at the stance taken by the NUJ and firmly believe that industrial action is not in the best interests of our staff or our business.”

Read the full story here.


Reuters journalists in US walk out

4/8/22: Nearly 300 Reuters journalists in the US went on strike on Thursday over a management offer of a guaranteed annual wage increase of 1%, according to the NewsGuild union that represents them.

Inflation was at 9.1% in the US in June, the country’s highest since November 1981.

The union said: “The miserly pay offer is particularly hard to swallow for journalists who have found themselves in the line of fire like never before in recent years, be it reporting on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, or extreme climate events.”

NewsGuild also said the offer did not include any retroactive pay for the period since the last general wage increase in March 2020 and claimed the company had failed to schedule dates to move negotiations forward.

The day-long walkout came on the day of Thomson Reuters’ latest quarterly earnings call, in which revenues grew by 5% to $1.61bn and operating profit grew by 24% to $391m. Journalists were expected to hold rallies at seven Reuters bureaux: in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Boston.

Reuters video reporter Julio-César Chávez said: “For the past two years we have been risking our lives, putting our physical safety and health on the line reporting the news that makes Reuters the best news agency in the world.

“While we reporters are called away from our families in the middle of dinner, something we gladly do for the job, Reuters executives sit in the comfort of their home offices managing the profits we bring in for the company. I’m walking out today because our work is what powers the success of Reuters, and we deserve to be compensated adequately for it.”

A Reuters spokesperson said: “Reuters is fully committed to constructive negotiations with the NewsGuild as we work towards a contract resolution for our U.S. union employees. These conversations are ongoing and we will continue to work with the Guild committee to settle on mutually agreeable terms.

“We have extensive contingency plans in place that will minimize this brief disruption and are confident that we will deliver the highest quality of service to all our customers”.


NUJ and National World clash as Scotsman journalists balloted for strikes

28/7/22: The NUJ and the editor of National World-owned The Scotsman have exchanged blows as union members at the newspaper are balloted over potential strike action.

Some 45 of the more than 60 journalists at The Scotsman and sister title The Edinburgh Evening News are being balloted over the next two weeks over a proposed restructuring that would see multiple staffers facing compulsory redundancy.

Staff at the paper have warned the move could see reporters doing the jobs of “three of four people” at once.

Scotsman editor Neil McIntosh accused the union of risking “harming” the outlet and claimed the NUJ had not proposed any alternatives to the company’s plans.

In a response seen by Press Gazette the union called this “simply untrue” – citing several suggestions they shared including widening out voluntary redundancies to reduce the need for forced job cuts.

“The ballot paper is clear on the reason for the ballot: to avoid compulsory redundancies and issues arising from redundancies,” NUJ Scotland organiser John Toner told members. “What is difficult to understand, however, is the idea that the NUJ, in seeking to protect the jobs of its members, is harming the business.”

See Press Gazette’s full report here.


Last-minute pay talks break down at Reach

18/7/22: Last-ditch attempts to reach a pay deal between the NUJ and publishing giant Reach have broken down.

The NUJ met with Reach through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on Monday after the publisher said it had a new offer that could resolve an ongoing pay dispute.

However, talks broke down after, the NUJ said, the company did not fundamentally change its 3% pay increase offer made to staff. The union said finding a resolution to the dispute would now be “harder”.

Press Gazette understands that instead Reach offered to enhance redundancy terms for some staff working on Local World and Express & Star contracts, as well as local democracy reporters, something the NUJ had been calling for.

Reach said in an email to staff, seen by Press Gazette: “Improving the redundancy terms for these large groups of people fully addressed a core part of the NUJ’s original pay claim and under the circumstances we felt this was a significant move.”

Last week the NUJ, believed to have around 1,000 members in Reach, officially informed the company of plans to ballot members for strike action over the wage increase, which they say amounts to a real-terms pay cut amid “skyrocketing inflation”.

NUJ Reach national coordinator Chris Morley said: “We today met with senior management from Reach under the auspices of ACAS and following the company saying they had a proposal to put to the union.

“The terms of this package are confidential to the company, but we can say that the NUJ is disappointed that it contained nothing to address the substantial pay cut our members are facing from skyrocketing inflation with just the original 3% or £750 minimum still the sum on the table.

“We met in good faith through the good offices of ACAS willing to explore any potential solutions that moved the dial on salaries. Sadly, this was lacking from the company and in some ways, what was put forward only made the task of finding resolution even harder.”

Ballots are set to arrive with NUJ members at Reach from 22 July. The vote will then take place over the following three weeks, with the ballot closing on 12 August.

If they vote in favour of action, the earliest a strike could take place is 26 August.

In the email to staff seen by Press Gazette, Reach said: “Our priority remains to protect the future of our business in the face of unprecedented business cost inflation and an uncertain economic backdrop. Both factors mean we cannot increase the pay offer for this year, and industrial action will not change that.

“So we are of course disappointed that the ballot is continuing and recognise that it will put our people in a really difficult position.”

A Reach spokesperson said: “In keeping with our commitment to support our journalists we have been undertaking extensive negotiations with the NUJ over recent months. Part of our discussions this week, through engagement with ACAS in the hope of reaching an agreement, included the offer of enhanced terms that would have benefitted hundreds of our journalists, representing several thousands of pounds to many of them.

“As the enhancement of these terms formed part of the NUJ’s original claim, we were disappointed that these were dismissed out of hand without being presented to their members.”


NUJ files notice for industrial action ballot at Reach

14/7/22: The NUJ has submitted a formal notice to ballot its members for industrial action at Reach over its ongoing pay dispute. 

The union now legally has to wait a week before sending the strike ballots to its members, before then giving them around two weeks to vote on whether they want to strike. 

The dispute centres around pay for Reach journalists. Junior reporters at the company are paid £21,500 a year on average, while senior reporters receive £25,000.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen received a pay package worth more than £4m in 2021.

The NUJ has refused to accept a proposed 3% pay rise from the company, saying that the publisher needed to offer more to stave off the impact of a predicted 11% inflation rate on its members.

Reach NUJ organiser Chris Morley said: “Our balloting for industrial action of all our members at Reach plc is an unfortunate landmark and one we as a union hoped we would never have to deploy.”

He added: “The 3% that the company has tabled as their final offer is an insult to our members’ ingenuity and creativity – never mind the damned hard work they do with stressful variable shifts, weekend working and dealing with a, sometimes, hostile and abusive public. It is the crumbs off the table of the company’s millionaires’ board.”


Scottish National World journalists support strike ballot

1/7/22: Journalists at National World-owned Scotsman Group, which includes staff at The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, have given overwhelming support for a strike ballot.

Press Gazette understands staff voted 90% in favour of strike action, on a 72% turnout, in an indicative ballot (the initial vote taken by unions before they can officially ballot members on industrial action).

The vote came after a redundancy plan was revealed that could see around 30 jobs cut across National World’s ex-JPI titles, with Scottish outlets particularly badly hit, to be replaced by the same number of digital roles at the publisher’s new city websites.

A source at an impacted title told Press Gazette the move would cut the affected JPI titles to “within an inch of their life”.

The union must now officially inform National World of the result before balloting members again.

The full results of any eventual vote are expected to come at some point in August.

NUJ Scottish national organiser John Toner told Press Gazette: “This is just another round of cuts at the Scottish National World titles which leaves our members worrying about both their workload, the effect on the quality of the journalism, and whether National World has any sustainable strategy.

“Given all of this, it comes as no surprise that our members at The Scotsman titles voted with over 90% support for industrial action in the indicative ballot.”


Mirror union accepts pay offer

1/7/22: Mirror journalists in the BAJ have accepted the 3%, or £750 minimum, pay offer that NUJ members in the company rejected. The Mirror’s recognised bargaining unit is, uniquely at Reach, run by the British Association of Journalists.

BAJ members will receive the salary increase in their July pay backdated to 1 April.

NUJ members working for the Mirror however are still set to be balloted for strike action.

This comes as a Mirror front page in June being the basis of an accusation of “hypocrisy” from the NUJ as it attacked five chief executives earning up to 86 times their average workers’ pay when Reach chief executive Jim Mullen earns 104 times more than the average salary of his employees.

The NUJ has not yet officially notified Reach of its intention to ballot for industrial action, but has said it will do so. Reach is understood to remain open to further negotiations.

It has told staff the size of the 3% offer reflects the need to continue investing in its digital strategy at the same time as dealing with hugely increased newsprint and energy costs.


Wired staff in US plan strike

‘Support the Wired Union on strike’ graphic July 2022.

1/7/22: The Wired Union at Conde Nast in the US has said that more than 97% of its members, around 60 people, are prepared to walk out to coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day on 12 and 13 July if the company does not agree to a “fair” pay increase, grant writers more intellectual property rights over their work, and recognise staff on the reviews team as part of the union.

They have chosen Prime Day because, they said, their work is “especially visible and profitable” then as the online shopping day brings in a lot of revenue and clicks for the site. They asked supporters not to visit the Wired website on those two days unless a “fair deal” is signed before then.

Alan Henry, senior editor of service at Wired, said: “The fact that management has been so unwilling to move on salary minimums that will attract both new and diverse talent shows where their real priorities are.

“Management has a short-sighted view of Wired’s success if they don’t realise a strong contract where workers feel adequately compensated and protected will make the workplace and publication better.”


Reach staff reject pay offer and may strike

27/6/22: NUJ members at Reach will take part in a ballot for industrial action after they rejected a 3%, or £750 minimum, pay offer.

This motion was “overwhelmingly” passed: “This group chapel, through its constituent chapels, rejects Reach plc’s final pay offer for 2022 of 3% or £750.

“In the absence of any other significant improvement to the offer from the company, the group chapel reluctantly requests that the union now move to ballot members over potential industrial action on pay.”

Reach staff who are not currently union members will get a 50% six-month discount on NUJ subs if they join before the end of July to encourage them to take part.

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Comments

4 thoughts on “Summer of strikes? Walkout dates for Reach and National World announced”

  1. If reporters and sub-editors at the Reach-owned, once decent, now woeful Bristol Post striked, would its remaining few print readers notice any difference?

  2. How about a show of support from journalists for the 70 or more Newsquest /Archant ad production,page planners and editorial creative design staff about to be made redundant while the company go the cheap route and move it all to India,a move Archant trialled a decade ago and pulled the plug within weeks due to a huge drop off in revenues and dissatisfied business advertisers

    NQ are known for quick short term cost saving measures and this is just another one they’re trying to slip in under the radar to avoid the inevitable fall out

    A shameful,shocking and an Ill considered decision which will adversely affect revenues and ultimately result in more job cuts in other departments further down the line

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