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Union shareholders tackle Trinity Mirror on cuts and quality

13 May 2009

More than a dozen union activists and officials from around the UK attended Trinity Mirror's annual shareholders' meeting. They were there to press the case that sacking journalists in large numbers undermines the quality that Britain's biggest newspaper publisher's bosses claim to believe in.

The NUJ warned Trinity Mirror that it must keep up its commitment to quality local journalism.

Chief executive Sly Bailey told the meeting in London that the firm would be imposing spending cuts of £25million this year, on top of closing 35 loss-making newspaper titles in 2008, but this "would not compromise quality."

Martin Shipton, NUJ rep at Trinity Mirror in Cardiff, asked why the group, which has imposed a nationwide pay freeze for 2009, would not negotiate with the union at a national level. He said:

"We do appreciate the economic problems but we would like a new relationship with the company."

Sir Ian Gibson, Trinity Mirror Chairman, rejected the idea of national talks saying that, if local management wanted to negotiate improved conditions for their workers, it "doesn't need board approval".

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said the company had got rid of a third of the journalists at its Birmingham centre and dozens elsewhere. He asked:

"How can you reconcile that? How can that not be to the detriment of quality?"

Seven NUJ representatives and an official of sister union Unite, representing print and clerical staff, pressed the board with questions on jobs and pay. All of them were armed with a Trinity Mirror share or proxy votes for other shareholders.

Instead of a negotiated pay rise in 2009, the firm were setting up a bonus scheme based on individuals' productivity, the meeting was told.

Steve Sibbold, Unite official, asked how the company could pay the bonuses if it didn't have the money, as directors were claiming, to pay a general increase?

Martin Shipton wanted to present the directors with a petition against the spending cuts signed by colleagues, but was told this could not be permitted in the annual meeting. The company took it later.

The two unions had earlier held a protest over cuts outside the London hotel where the meeting was held.

Tags: , newspapers, trinity mirror, cuts, local newspapers, quality journalism, unite, pay, negotiations, shareholders