Journalists in York have reacted with fury after being docked a day's wages for taking industrial action over pay - just hours after they were told they would not lose money.
Members of the NUJ chapel at Newsquest York - which publishes The Press and the Gazette and Herald - held a ten-minute mandatory meeting at 10am today in their on-going dispute over a third pay freeze in four years.
Having returned to work following the meeting, with talks over a 2013 pay claim set to be held with management early in the New Year, chapel representatives were told by Steve Hughes, managing editor of The Press, that no pay would be docked over the meeting and journalists resumed work, including producing a large number of stories to cover the busy Christmas period.
However, the chapel was then told at 1.30pm - more than three hours after returning to work - that their members would lose a full day's pay after an article about today's industrial action had appeared in the trade press with the chapel's consent.
Ironically, the notification of the pay stoppage was announced just as an e-mail Christmas card arrived from Newsquest Yorkshire & North East Ltd managing director David Coates thanking staff for their work during the year.
Joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Mark Stead branded the management U-turn "embarrassing" and "double-dealing".
"Our members took action today fully aware of the potential consequences and did so because principles mean more than money," they said.
"What we cannot tolerate is that we are the victims of management misinformation. We were explicitly told we would not be docked pay, only for this to be U-turned on hours later.
"Members have worked for more than half a day under false pretences and essentially for free. This has left an extremely bitter taste and an atmosphere of immense distrust at a time when there was hope of progress being made in this dispute.
"We cannot accept this ridiculous and unfair treatment. We are absolutely furious and it is a huge setback in terms of reaching a solution."
Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands Organiser said: "I am deeply shocked by the volte face carried out by management in which members were persuaded to suspend their industrial action and return to their desks - only to be informed hours later they would be docked pay anyway.
"This is truly outrageous behaviour by the company and potentially has seriously put back the possibility of finding a solution to this crisis as members rightly feel betrayed and provoked by their own company.
"After a year in which management has led the chapel along with promises of periodic reviews of the pay situation which resulted in a big fat zero increase yet again for members, confidence in what the company says is at an all-time low.
"By double dealing in this way, the senior managers have poured petrol on a dispute that just will not go away until they show a real commitment to tackle the growing hardship for a well-trained, experienced and award-winning team of journalists. The measly sum saved by this action of docking pay will probably pay for just a few days of the directors' annual - and ill deserved - bonus."
The union is now seeking legal advice over the issue.
What you can do to help -
The York chapel is encouraging readers, York residents and journalists around the country to tell Steve Hughes and David Coates what they think.
Key Twitter accounts are @NUJYork, @yorkpress, @presssteveh and @echodavidcoates using the hashtag #fairyork