National World journalists deliver vote of no confidence in chairman

  • 05 Jul 2023

The executive chairman of National World has lost the confidence of hundreds of journalists working for the company's newspapers and websites across the UK.   

Members of the National Union of Journalists employed by the regional publisher were asked whether they have confidence in David Montgomery and the board to act in the best interests of the business, staff and local communities - and the answer was a resounding no.  

The no confidence vote comes as the company proceeds with restructuring plans that have put more than 50 journalists at risk of redundancy and will see 34 roles axed. While some of those affected might be redeployed due to the creation of 12 new roles and one existing editor vacancy, it is expected that at least 21 journalists will be left without jobs.  

There was further upset last week when it emerged that the company's proposed new structure for its flagship website would no longer include a deputy editor - despite journalists at risk being put through interviews. Anger felt by the entire team was compounded by the discovery that the role was being withdrawn so that Mr Montgomery himself could play a more hands-on role in the day-to-day management of the website.   

National World has agreed a maiden dividend for shareholders that totals £1.36m and is due to be paid today, July 5. Among the biggest beneficiaries is Mr Montgomery who stands to get £22,000 of dividend income payable via shares linked to a management performance scheme. Shares bought by Montgomery Media Ltd in order to launch National World plc will attract a further dividend of £96,000. 

An NUJ National World Group Chapel spokesperson said:

"This vote of no confidence is not about a lack of faith in local editors or an unwillingness to embrace digital journalism. It is very much about the damaging culture that has evolved under David Montgomery's leadership and the direct threat that he now poses to the future success of this business.  

"Many feel senior managers are no longer able to give honest opinions or question decisions being taken and, as a result, significant resources are being directed towards one man's empire building at the expense of everything else.   

"The board must see that allowing a major shareholder to not only serve as executive chairman and the effective lead for all editorial strategy, but to also appoint himself as the de facto editor of the company's flagship national website is a recipe for disaster. Where is the very necessary scrutiny coming from when one man holds so much sway? If the board will not exercise that crucial responsibility, then the other shareholders must intervene as a matter of urgency."  

16 NUJ chapels have delivered votes of no confidence including those representing staff working for the Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the News Letter, as well as top performing digital titles such as the Yorkshire Evening Post, Sheffield Star, Sunderland Echo and Edinburgh Evening News. Local democracy reporters hosted by the business have also said they have no confidence in Mr Montgomery's leadership.  

The union had previously sounded the alarm about the way the company has approached the current redundancy process, the emotional toll that the poorly managed consultations are having on journalists and the lack of any risk assessments or equality impact assessments being shared on the proposals to date.  

News that there is no minimum payment being proposed for journalists made redundant with less than two years’ service has further angered staff after the company issued an ultimatum in its annual pay talks with the union. Journalists yet to reach settlements on their pay had been given until June 30 to accept a below-inflation offer of 4.5 percent or risk the withdrawal of back pay to April 1 when a deal is eventually agreed.    

Despite the company's threats, 13 of the 14 recognised NUJ chapels still involved in negotiations voted to reject the pay offer once again. They have issued a formal invitation to participate in talks hosted by the conciliation service Acas, which the company has accepted.   

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

“The determined stance taken by our chapels on pay despite the major challenges they have been dealing with inside the business, including the shambolic redundancy process, is a huge credit to them. We are pleased that the company has now agreed to meet with the NUJ in national talks at Acas on behalf of all of our affected chapels. These talks provide a genuine opportunity to start rebuilding the deeply damaged relationship between the company and its journalists. 

“Our chapels want to see real engagement on issues around unfair pay that our reps have been raising for three years now, and more meaningful recognition of the cost of living crisis that is impacting NUJ members across the board.” 

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