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Highfield told to forgo bonus by poorly-paid, stressed-out staff

27 April 2015

Ashley Highfield's pay rise – equivalent to the annual wage of one of his news editors – has been called unfair while staff are poorly paid and suffering stress following Johnston Press's (JP) never-ending cull of journalist posts.

The newspaper group published figures showing JP's chief executive has been given a pay rise of almost 7.5 per cent, or £26,000, from £404,000 to £430,000 for this year. He received a total pay package of £1.65m last year, including a £645,000 bonus. The bumper pay award is despite the company reporting a pre-tax loss £23.9m for last year. The JP NUJ chapel called on him to forgo his bonus.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"This announcement will stick in the craw of Johnston Press journalists. Saying that Ashley Highfield's increase is broadly consistent with pay awards across the company in that time period is double think of the highest order, when some areas had nothing this year and others had increases only following hard local negotiations.
"A pay rise of £26,000 is more than the pay of a news editor on some weekly titles in an entire year. The number of jobs axed by JP over the past three years has left staff stressed and newsrooms struggling. That's why Johnston Press NUJ members have called on the directors to give up their bonuses and invest the money in frontline editorial where it matters."

The Johnston Press group chapel said in a statement:

"The group chapel has been appealing to Mr Highfield to forgo his bonus because we feel this sends out the wrong message. Our members have faced double-figure pay cuts in real terms in recent years.  We have also proved, through a stress survey last year, staff have been suffering from alarming levels of stress. We recognise Mr Highfield should be rewarded for his hard work. But news of the size of the bonus, plus a 7.5 per cent pay rise at a time of great uncertainty in the company, will surely breed resentment among JP staff.

"We welcome the company's aim to focus on quality journalism, but remain concerned about the continued cuts to staffing in some regions as part of its Newsroom of the‎ Future programme. We are now appealing for the company to carry out a review of pay structures across the business with a view to our members being adequately rewarded for their efforts. 
"We are sure the company appreciates that their hard work is directly linked to the successes revealed in the annual report. We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the company and discuss some proposals on pay."

Johnston Press chief Ashley Highfield receives £1.65m pay package


Tags: , local news matters, local newspapers, johnston press, ashley highfield, pay, bonuses, stress