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Hampshire Newsquest members vote to strike

20 October 2010

NUJ members at Newsquest's Hampshire Chronicle and The Daily Echo have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over a two-year pay freeze. Sevent-eight per cent of members voted in favour of a strike and 95 per cent opted for action short of a strike.

Newsquest, Britain's second-biggest regional newspaper publisher, says it has frozen pay in response to the recession.

The firm has also threatened to close its final salary pension scheme which may lock salary levels for pensionable pay at rates set in 2007.

The latest accounts from Newsquest Media plc show its highest paid director got a 21.5 per cent pay rise last year.

During a conference call between executives at the company's US parent, Gannett, and Wall Street analysts last week, Gracia Martore, Gannett's chief financial officer, rejected the idea that Newsquest was losing money.

She said:

"Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn't make money. Newsquest makes a lot of money. In fact, their margin, as I have said a couple of times, is consistent with the margin that our local US community publishing operations generate – so their margins are in the high teens to low 20s.
"They have consistently made money throughout the years, even in a year like last year when revenues were under as much pressure as they were."

The NUJ Parliamentary Group has told Gannett's chairman and chief executive officer, Craig A Dubow, of the union's opposition to the latest attacks on NUJ members' pay and pensions.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary, said:

"Newsquest's continuing attacks on its own journalists, combined with greed in the boardroom, have been truly exposed. The business remains profitable, but consistently fails to fairly reward staff.
"It is not acceptable for the company to continue undermining pay and conditions and treating the workforce with such contempt.
"Our members have simply had enough and this has been shown in the ballot result."

Tags: , newspapers, pay freeze, pensions, strike, ballot, newsquest, hampshire chronicle, hampshire, daily echo, gannett