Members of the York chapel of the National Union of Journalists walked out of their office after management docked an entire day's pay for a meeting which lasted ten minutes.
The NUJ is in dispute with management at Newsquest Yorkshire & North East, which runs The Press in York and its sister title the Gazette & Herald, after having a pay freeze imposed on them for 2012. It is the third pay freeze to be imposed on York journalists in the last four years.
Editorial staff based in Darlington, whose paper The Northern Echo is also run by Newsquest Yorkshire & North East, were awarded a 2 per cent pay increase earlier this year, but their fellow workers at York and Bradford were told there was no money for a pay rise.
Newsquest Yorkshire & North East, part of the Newsquest Media Group - owned by American firm Gannett Inc - recorded a profit of £1.87million in 2011, according to the latest available accounts, and during the same period the company paid unnamed recipients, believed to include directors and senior managers, £44,000 in the form of a "share-based payment" – the equivalent of the annual salaries of two senior journalists.
In pursuit of their claim of a pay rise, the NUJ's York chapel agreed to stage industrial action after a ballot earlier this year and voted to hold a series of mandatory meetings starting at 10am every day this week.
When they returned from their meeting at 10.10am, they were informed by York managing editor Steve Hughes that the meeting constituted "part performance" and a full day's pay would be docked from each journalist who attended. The deduction was announced despite journalists being allowed an hour-long lunch break and screen breaks of ten minutes for every two hours worked.
Joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Mark Stead said: "The management response is intolerable and utterly unjustified. We are in the midst of legally-balloted industrial action, so to penalise our members for a ten-minute meeting is against all concepts of fairness. Our members attended today's meeting in the full knowledge that they faced losing a day's pay, once again demonstrating their commitment to our cause, but remain angry and disappointed at the continuing intransigence of Newsquest management.
"We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for a fair pay rise from a company that is making significant profits for its management and the company's share-holders in the United States."
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands organiser, said: "It is incredibly disappointing that the management has acted in this way by cutting the journalists' pay in this way. This bullying tactic is counter-productive as it will make it far more difficult to find a proper resolution to this legitimate dispute. I urge the company to reverse its position and get around the table for proper negotiations."
Staff working for Newsquest in Bradford took action today over the Newsquest pay freeze by holding a mandatory chapel meeting.