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Bonuses for Johnston Press bosses questioned

7 May 2014

Staff at Johnston Press have questioned why members of its management have been rewarded with bonuses – and have been given the opportunity to increase their bonuses this year – despite missing targets.

The NUJ's group chapel has asked why the top management received rewards while journalists and other staff suffered double-figure wage cuts in real terms as workloads rise.There is also concern at big pay outs made to departing directors.

Johnston Press said, in its annual report, that it planned to give its chief executive Ashley Highfield the opportunity to boost his bonus payments further this year

A statement from the NUJ Johnston Press group chapel said:

"These bonuses will be hard to swallow for our members, who continue to face unmanageable workloads and stress. The bonuses are linked to performance targets, so it seems the hard work of staff at the company will be used to secure huge payments for top level management.
"Worryingly, the company has stated its intention to extend the target-driven culture by introducing performance related pay for editorial staff, a system we feel would be unworkable and unfair. It is also worrying that the JP management is being incentivised to introduce editorial policies which undermine quality journalism and photography by increasing 'user generated content'.
"Staff have faced double-figure wage cuts in real terms in recent years, yet continue working under increasingly tough conditions to make sure the company's newspapers and websites are published. We hope the company recognises their efforts during wage negotiations with the NUJ in the coming year."

The newspaper group reduced its staff (year-on-year) by 13 per cent to 4,188; in the past two years Johnston Press has shed almost 1,600 staff.

Johnston Press owns 13 paid-for dailies, 209 paid-for weeklies, 41 free titles and has 209 websites. It has recently sold its 14 titles in Ireland to Iconic Newspapers Limited, a company run by British advertising executive

Ashley Highfield received a bonus of £80,000 plus £100,000 in pension contributions and earned overall £592,000 in 2013. The company plans to increase his bonus potential for 2014 to 180 per cent of his salary and for David King, executive director, 150 per cent of salary (this is one-and-a-half times the normal annual opportunity).

Ashley Highfield admitted that increasing cover prices during the recession led to a greater-than-expected decline in circulation. Ian Russell, the company's chairman, said Johnston Press was to join the new industry-led press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser said:

"Staff at Johnston Press are under pressure as a result of increased workloads and reduced headcount. For example figures in the report show there has been a 189 per cent increase in the number of video uploads over the past year. The board may have exercised discretion when it comes to awarding bonuses at the top but journalists on the ground have had no discretion over job cuts and having to work harder to fill gaps left by valued colleagues.
"This reads like cuts at the bottom to fund pay-outs in the boardroom, despite management missing all but 1 performance target over the year, including the target on staff satisfaction. It totally discredits the idea of introducing performance pay for staff."

Johnston Press, full annual report

Tags: , bonuses, johnston press, newspapers, cuts, pay, local newspapers, regional journalism, ipso