NUJ Newsquest staff put in for £1,500 pay package
13 October 2016
The NUJ has delivered a company-wide wage and benefits claim for journalists at Newsquest which would be worth more than £1,500 or 7.6 per cent to a reporter on a £20,000 salary.
Most journalists working for Newsquest have had their pay virtually frozen since 2008.
The package includes a basic 1.5 per cent cost-of-living increase to keep up with inflation in the past 12 months. It recognises some of the huge productivity gains reaped by the company from repeated redundancies and addresses the need for new pay differentials between skilled journalists and the Living Wage, since its introduction this year. The NUJ is seeking industry-parity rates for trainees, with an entry salary of £17,500, together with a 1 per cent increase in company pension contributions. This is to improve the pension pots of longer-serving employees and to speed up the statutory auto-enrolment scheme for new joiners.
The union said all freelance and casual rates should be raised in line with the basic cost of living increase. The claim includes an agreement that staff, except those exclusively working for Sunday publications, will work no more than one in four weekends and a request was made for more recruitment to cope with the demands of the “Write to Shape” editorial system.
An NUJ pay survey held last year found Newsquest was one of the stingiest employers, despite its parent company, the American-owned Gannett, being able to pay its top five executives £15.9m and Gracia Martore, then president and chief executive officer, £7.5m.
Staff at Newsquest, the UK’s second largest newspaper group, which includes the Glasgow Herald, Brighton Argus, Northern Echo, Bolton News and Oxford Mail, have had virtually no pay rises since 2010. Their workloads have grown as year-on-year cuts have reduced newsroom headcounts while demands on journalists, for example social media tasks, have increased.
Latest available company accounts showed Newsquest removed 1.2 per cent of its editorial staff in 2014 but has not given anything to remaining employees to recognise their increasingly valuable contributions.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, submitted the 12-point claim on behalf of the Newsquest NUJ Group Chapel and Newsquest chapels will be submitting the claim locally in the next few days. She said:
"We expect the management to take this claim seriously. Staff wages have been seriously eroded at the same time as demands and workloads have increased. I am expecting a speedy response from CEO Henry Faure Walker. Following recent negotiations over the dispute at Newsquest south London, he can no longer claim that local centres are autonomous as the involvement of head office was very clear.”
Staff on Newsquest’s titles in south London started a seven-day strike today over redundancies.
Chris Morley, NUJ Newsquest group co-ordinator, said:
“Our members in Newsquest have had to endure the hardest of times since the great media recession first struck in 2008 – with only one confirmed group-wide increase of 2 per cent in 2010. Since then, real inflation has soared and slashed the value of salaries while statutory wage levels, such as the minimum wage and national living wage, have risen, badly eroding skilled Newsquest employees’ position in the country’s workforce as compared to even the most unskilled jobs.
“At the same time, Newsquest has squeezed more and more out of staff, with jobs going and new work demands imposed. This has included the introduction of intensive social media tasks and the new “Work to Shape” system. The opportunity for promotion has also been severely curtailed because the traditional newsroom hierarchy has been squashed flat. Members on low pay have had enough of subsiding the flow of profits exported to American shareholders. They are ready to make a stand and insist bosses hear their shout to redress the balance between shareholder-boardroom largesse and investing in the company’s hardworking journalists.”