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Johnston Press staff hit by six-month pay freeze

2 March 2017

Journalists at regional publisher Johnston Press have been hit with a six-month pay freeze.

Staff have been told  that all annual pay reviews in editorial have been postponed as the company seeks to cut costs. It means many journalists at the company will not have their next pay review until 2018.

NUJ reps at Johnston Press  (JP) are consulting their members on the pay deferral, which amounts to a real-terms wage cut in 2017 and follows years of below inflation increases. And they plan to raise questions about whether top executives at JP will be getting bonuses this year.

A Johnston Press group chapel spokesperson said:

"News of this six month pay freeze has come as a huge blow to beleaguered editorial teams who put their hearts and souls into producing quality journalism for their readerships in the face of continued cuts, dwindling staff levels and increasing workloads. Instead of being rewarded for their loyalty and hard work, they now face the prospect of an effective pay cut in the year ahead. We hope the impact of this week's announcement on ordinary working journalists will not be forgotten by shareholders when it comes to deciding whether top executives should get bonuses this year."

Andy Smith, NUJ assistant organiser, said:

"Johnston Press's best asset is its staff. These are the people who have recently produced an excellent investigation into the state of the NHS and others have won awards for their journalism. They do not need this slap in the face. They are already struggling to get by on their present salaries and the prospect of no more money when the cost of living is rising and inflation looks set to increase will hit them hard. The company’s latest trading statement said that increasing their audience was essential to the future of JP, but the only way to do that is to invest in quality journalism."

According to a trading update issued last month, revenues at Johnston Press fell by 6 per cent during the 52 weeks to 31 December. Yet the update said that cost-cutting meant the company had maintained a profit margin of 22 per cent, among the highest in the industry.

The statement said that after a particularly difficult summer “prompted by Brexit-related uncertainty” there had been some improvement in the last quarter of 2016. Ashley Highfield, the company's chief executive, received £1.65m in 2014, with £645,000 awarded as a bonus, half of which was paid in shares. His salary and bonus package fell to £581,000 in 2015.

Tags: , local newspapers, local news matters, johnston press, pay, pay freeze, ashley highfield, Johnston Press group chapel