The NUJ stipulates that “additional skills merit additional pay”. This was reinforced in the interim guidelines into multi-media working that the union published in 2006, which stated that the added value being brought to publishers’websites cannot be undertaken on a“cost neutral basis”. It said:
“If companies intend to use existing staff, chapels should try to negotiate additional payments for those whose work changes.”
According to NUJ research published in 2005
, journalists were earning on average £6,000 less a year than their colleagues in comparable professions. In local newspapers, the gap was far wider. This was at a time when the integration of new media and traditional print/ broadcast workplaces was still a nascent project for many within the industry.
Yet two years on the survey conducted by the commission found few journalists are financially benefiting from their new skills contributions required by companies to deliver multi-media working. Just 22% of chapels said their members had received extra pay for applying themselves to new media.
Just over half of respondents said that staff were expected to work in new media, yet their pay remained the same. This is despite the fact that new media working is increasing workloads. Companies are expanding operations and output, without increasing headcount. Over a third of respondents admitted journalists were working longer hours to deliver new media working, effectively a pay cut, for staff at a time when they are working harder.
It is not just a matter of a heavier workload or even longer hours, but also different hours. As newspapers where staff have worked predictable hours go over to web-first publication, extra shifts are required at unsocial hours, notably at weekends. Journalists at the Telegraph group in London, working in difficult circumstances as managers attempted to ram through a seven-day all-media operation and shed more than 50 journalists in the process without consulting staff, succeeded in winning extra pay for such work. The chapel won a ballot for strike action that forced managers to concede a lump-sum payment of £5,000 for staff accepting new shift patterns with weekend working; they also agreed to restrict the new work to volunteers only. Increases of up to 5% have been secured for those moving to new rota patterns at The Guardian.
In provincial papers the picture is even less positive. The chapel at a Johnston Press daily reported that staff delivering new media“are not paid a penny extra”, despite the fact that new working practices had increased workloads. A Newsquest chapel said that increasingly integrated online/newspaper practices had led to rising workloads, but no extra money has been negotiated.
In some offices, however, bonus schemes have been devised. Union reps at Archant, Norwich, have negotiated a new bonus based on the number of hits achieved by the website. This year, staff received a £120 extra as a result.
Many employers have attempted to justify their refusal to increase pay to those who take on new skills with the argument that they them more “marketable”in the media economy. There have been cases of some who have acquired video skills leaving regional newspapers to earn more elsewhere, but this is due mainly to the desperately low pay they were earning on the papers. And even if this pay advantage exists now, when video skills are in demand, it will diminish as they become more widespread, particularly as a new generation of multi-skilled journalists emerges from the colleges.
into the integration programme at Trinity Mirror newspapers in South Wales commissioned by the NUJ from the school of media and cultural studies at Cardiff University concluded that staff are not being properly compensated for the extra output and skills they were expected to bring to the job. It found staff were overstretched, with “the same number of workers expected to do more for no extra pay.”
It reported that 84% of staff said they were too busy to take on further responsibilities such as video journalism, and that 82% were resigned to the fact they would not be offered additional pay for the additional work. The report noted:
“It would be wrong for people in positions of responsibility to assume that goodwill is an inexhaustible commodity”.
There is a further pay problem in some offices: that pay rates on “new”media are lower than for journalists on the “old”ones. This has been a particular abuse at the Guardian of all places, the supposed leader of the integration pack, where the online staff have been on significantly inferior terms since the outset in 1999. It is not just pay: staff on the website have worked a 40-hour, five-day week, compared to the 35 hours worked by newspaper staff on a nine-day fortnight. The chapel has attempted ever since to bring Guardian Unlimited journalists onto the same levels of pay as their newspaper colleagues. The company poured over £500,000 into online pay in 2006 as a result of a ballot for industrial action. But this only narrowed the woeful pay gap.
The Guardian chapel has now seized on the fact that the company plans to step up integration, where online journalists will sit side by side with their newspaper colleagues, and used the 2007 pay round to secure a pay audit embracing web, Guardian and Observer staff, conducted by an independent job evaluator mutually agreed with the union. The chapel intends to use the findings of this audit at the next pay round in April 2009. The NUJ also used the 2007 pay round to raise the editorial minimum wage from £28,000, to £30,000. Likewise at the Telegraph, where despite the concessions won last year there remains a pay disparity between web and print reporters.
These big newspaper-based website offices stand in marked contrast to the BBC, where the pay of online, TV and radio journalists is governed by a single grading system, thanks to the efforts of a strong NUJ chapel when BBC Online was set up. However, there is concern for the allowance paid by the BBC for working unsocial hours. In its latest round of cuts the corporation is proposing to do away with the Unpredictability Allowance (UPA) for new staff. UPA ranges from £2,000 to more than £4,500 per year on top of salary and the outcome would be an effective pay cut for new staff.
The Commission recommends that chapels should negotiate to ensure that:
- Staff taking on specific extra skills, or transferring to shift work that entails unsocial hour working, should be properly rewarded for doing so.
- All staff must be on the same pay scales, regardless of which media they are working in.