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NUJ members at Johnston Press Northern Ireland vote for action

22 March 2016

Journalists in the News Letter, the Derry Journal and the Morton Newspapers group of regional titles have voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action in a dispute over pay, redundancy terms, staffing levels and changes to working practices.

The union welcomed the ballot results and said it sends "a very strong signal in a company where the union has over 90 per cent of eligible staff as NUJ members."

In the Derry Journal the vote was 100 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 73 per cent. The News Letter voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 74 per cent. Morton Newspapers voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 85 per cent.

Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish organiser, said:

"It is outrageous to propose job cuts when this union has consistently highlighted chronic understaffing and the subsequent pressures on our member’s health and wellbeing not to mind the quality of the papers.

"While NUJ members face yet another attack on their working conditions and struggle to serve their communities and produce quality newspapers, senior executives in Johnston Press are rewarding themselves handsomely.

"The annual financial report under the heading 'incentive plans' reveals a bonus arrangement for the 'retention and incentivisation’ of senior managers (excluding executive directors) of £3.9m' which will be payable in March 2016. This is in stark contrast to how our members are treated, having endured pay freezes for years and who have only recently seen small percentage increases to their salaries, while restructure after restructure has reduced editorial staffing levels by more than half and wiped out almost all promotional opportunities."

The latest Johnston Press financial results show that the company’s operating profits were £50.6m with a profit before tax increase of 22.6 per cent to £31.5m. Profit margins are at 21 per cent. The company profits announcement comes at same time as NUJ members are facing job cuts and restructuring across Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.

The company has proposed to make up to 13 jobs redundant across their Northern Irish operation. Johnston Press has refused a request to withdraw their proposals to cut staff until an agreement is reached on staffing levels and redundancy terms.

The NUJ is seeking 3 weeks’ pay per year of service plus pay in lieu of notice. The union also has a longstanding pay claim for additional points on the salary scale to compensate for the loss of promotional opportunities.

Nicola Coleman added:

"The latest financial results show that demands for a decent redundancy package, an agreement on staffing levels and a fair pay scale can be delivered. The result of the ballot signifies a massive display of unity, strength and determination to take a stand for fairness and respect."

Tags: , northern ireland, derry journal, news letter, morton newspapers, industrial action, strike, ballot, johnston press, local news matters, local newspapers, job cuts, redundancies, restructure