DM2023: low starting salaries in publishing

  • 28 Apr 2023

Conference voted for a campaign to improve diversity and starting wages in the books industry.

A campaign to promote diversity in publishing and to tackle the low starting salaries which have become a barrier to the less wealthy will be spearheaded by the Black Members’ Council, Disabled Members’ Council and Magazines and Books Industrial Council, in conjunction with Oxford branch.

A 2021 survey found that average overall salary in the books industry was £34,049, and the average starting pay was £22,788. It also reported that 89.5 per cent classed themselves as white (compared to 90.4 per cent in 2017), and there was an average gender pay gap of 15 per cent. In a survey of 230 participants, carried out by the Bookseller last May, 37 per cent said their current salary was not enough to cover the cost of living, and again low entry-level salaries were highlighted.

Bill MacKeith, speaking for the Magazines and Books Industrial Council, said: “Low pay levels especially starting salaries are leading to a lack of diversity with working class, non-white and disabled workers not being able to break into publishing because of the barrier of the low pay." 

Paula Dunne, of Oxford and district branch said: “It’s not just the low salaries, it’s that most of the jobs are in expensive areas such as London or Oxford.  I’m from a working class background and I struggled with debt on a salary of £20,00. The industry has known about this for decades but has nothing about it. We need do more research and campaign to get the changes needed.”

Natasha Hirst speaking for the Disabled Members’ Council said having a plurality of voices was vital in publishing.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser said while starting salaries were remaining low, and  members were being priced out by poverty wages, newspaper CEOs and shareholders were still rewarding themselves in these times of inflation. That is why it was so important that the union negotiated increased rates for those starting at Reach, he said.

Conference voted unanimously for the campaign to promote diversity in publishing, “focusing on entry-level pay rates as a major barrier to recruiting beyond white, non-disabled middle-class demographics”.

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