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Johnston Press's decision to halve mileage rate will make job impossible

11 March 2014

Journalists at Johnston Press have written to its chief executive to protest at plans to cut mileage rates by almost half.

The letter to Ashley Highfield, from members of the National Union of Journalists, asked the regional publisher to urgently reconsider a "unilateral and potentially unlawful decision" to cut the amount paid to staff using their own cars from 45p - the standard HMRC rate - to 25p.

A statement from the Johnston Press group chapel said:

“There is a huge amount of anger among members throughout the company who are united in their opposition to these proposals. We have seen evidence that Johnston Press originally intended to introduce this change in November, which makes it even harder to accept the decision not to consult staff in any way and to give them just 24 hours’ notice about this reduction in mileage rates. We haven’t even had anything in writing about this substantial change to our terms and conditions."

It appears the decision to put the new rates in place back to April 1 was because the regional centres did not have suitable alternatives in place for staff no longer willing to use their own cars.

Many NUJ chapels in local centres have already written to regional managing directors to object to the plans and some have voted to withdraw their own cars for business use.

A spokesperson for the chapel said:

“The reduction in mileage rates will heavily impact on our members, particularly photographers, sports reporters and staff who have no longer have an office. It not only wipes out any minimal pay rises staff have received in recent years, but will also prevent them doing their jobs properly. Reps have told us there are no pool cars available at their offices or that it costs more to get a bus from their new out-of-town office into the centre than it would to drive and claim 45p per mile. It brings the whole idea that this is a justifiable cost-saving measure into question.”

The group chapel has asked the company to demonstrate how savings will be made and what savings it expects to make.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser,  said:

"Johnston Press says it wants all its employees to feel valued, but actions like these show just how little it thinks of staff who have shown a great deal of loyalty and commitment in the face of jobs cuts, office closures, increasing workloads and below-inflation pay rises. There has been no consultation on this mileage cut and editors have been briefed not to negotiate with our reps.

"The company has made much of giving staff the right tools for the job and talks about journalists working from their patches when it is trying to justify closing or relocating offices -  but this move will make it prohibitively expensive for our members to use their own cars to do that and suitable alternatives are not in place. It will also render impossible some of the quality, award-winning investigative work that the group's journalists have produced, enhancing Johnston Press's reputation."

Johnston Press publishes more than 200 titles, including the Scotsman, Yorkshire Post, Belfast News and Lancashire Evening Post.

Tags: , johnston press, cuts, mileage rates, pay and conditions, newspapers, regional newspapers