Springer Nature pay dispute

  • 22 May 2024

93 per cent of NUJ members at the Nature Portfolio of journals have voted for strike action, due to start 20 June.

The collection of 60+ journals, which includes the world’s leading science journal Nature, has been owned by international publisher Springer Nature since 2015.

Talks between the union and publisher broke down in April following negotiations via ACAS. The UK staff, comprising nearly 400 academic editors, journalists, art editors and production staff, have rejected an offer of 5.8% from the company.

In its most recent annual report (for 2022), Springer Nature posted an operating profit of €487 million (around £410 million) on revenues of more than €1.8 billion (around £1.6 billion). The company has set an Article Processing Charge (APC) for Nature, and the other Nature research journals, of €10,290 (£8,890) to publish Gold Open Access — among the highest of any scientific publisher, and an 8% increase over the 2023 rate.

Springer Nature is widely expected to pursue an IPO later this year, which could raise around €9 billion (£7.7 billion) for its owners and investors — the family-run Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and private-equity group BC Partners.

Instead of giving its UK staff a salary increase that helps them meet the dramatic increase in the cost of living, the company seems to prefer to expand its salary budget on further increasing senior management. Despite already having 99 vice presidents worldwide (representing around 1 per cent of its entire global workforce), it is currently recruiting two new positions: vice president of Nature Communications portfolio, and vice president of Nature Research Journals portfolio — with US-annualised base salaries of $225,000–250,000. With just under 400 people in the NUJ’s bargaining unit, one new vice president’s salary is worth around a £500 pay rise per person.

At the same time, and against prevailing flexible working trends, Springer Nature has announced plans to double the number of days that the Nature editors have to come into the London office, which will further eat into any proposed salary rise.

An NUJ spokesperson said:

“We’ve got colleagues whose mortgages have gone up by £200 per month, whose energy bills have gone up by £130, on top of rising food bills — and now their commuting costs are also doubling. Springer Nature’s claim that their pay offer is ‘above inflation’ is playing fast and loose with reality. Many of us have seen the real-terms value of our salaries shrink over the past few years.”

The union is calling on Springer Nature to provide a pay rise that values its staff, reaches a fair outcome and resolves the dispute.

Publishing giant Springer Nature Group was created in 2015 following the merger of Macmillan Science and Education and Springer Science+Business Media. This is the first time since then that a ballot for industrial action has been held, and the first for Nature since the early 1990s, when it was owned by Macmillan.

Keeping in touch

The NUJ will keep members updated throughout any industrial action. We’ll contact you via email or text so keep an eye out for our communications to stay updated (check spam files as necessary). Check that we have your latest details by logging into the website at www.nuj.org.uk/login.html and then click My NUJ. Please include a mobile number. You can also update your contact preferences by clicking view/edit my profile.

How to support the strikers

Post a message of solidarity on Instagram or X/Twitter using #SpringerNatureStrike – Tag @nujofficial and we’ll repost. Email [email protected] with a message of solidarity.  Find out more about the strike and where and when you can visit our pickets on strike days. 

Visit the picket line from 8am-2pm on Thursday 20 June at Springer Nature campus at Crinian Street/Wharfdale Road, King's Cross, London.

Donate to the hardship fund

It’s easy to donate – simply click the donate button, which enables you to make a donation via Paypal or using a debit or credit card. Alternatively you can also make a direct bank transfer using the details below – if you choose this option, please remember to add the reference, Hardship Fund.

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Why 5.8 per cent is not enough

"5.8% isn't enough as it simply isn't enough to account for the spiralling cost of living. In my case, my energy bills tripled last year. Now they've come down, but are still twice what I was paying before. At the same time the prices of many basics have gone up. My food bills have increased by around 20 per cent. To make ends meet I've sold my car and am forgoing many 'luxuries' — like fun mostly.

Worst of all is the situation regarding rent. Last year my rent went up by 13 per cent and now my landlords are seeking to increase it again this year by an additional 17 per cent. Overall, in the space of a year my rent payments have gone up by a third from where they were. Obviously 5.8 per cent barely accounts for that substantial increase. As such, I have to consider moving out of London, but even elsewhere rents have spiked. Many of my colleagues took the opportunity to move out of London when we were only required to be in one day a week, but now their high commuting costs have doubled with the company's insistence that we be in two days a week. I worry that this is the thin end of the wedge too. If we're required to be in the office more and more, it would also make living outside of London unaffordable.

So, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. London is becoming unaffordable, but so is everywhere else. I don't expect the company to give me huge increases every year, I just want to be able to continue to live my life without worries about money. My bills keep going up and my pay just isn't accounting for it. Currently I just feel worse and worse off.

Feeling more and more squeezed is also a bit galling at the same time as the endless emails about how well the business is performing, how many billions it's generating, how many awards we've won, etc. etc. I just want to live my life without worrying.

Looking at inflation calculators, the CPI has increased 21 per cent since then, which makes me laugh every time I see the argument of the 5.8 per cent offer being “higher than inflation”. I have had to take on extra work to compensate.

The fact that Springer Nature have the funds to introduce two new vice president leadership roles in Nature Portfolio but made a huge number production staff redundant in 2021, resulting in overstretched production teams that are still overstretched today, shows just how much they don't value the vast majority of their staff. Their refusal to provide a fair pay increase for these staff, who ultimately produce their product, emphasizes their apathy towards our struggles further."

"In the past year, my mortgage has gone up by £200 per month, my energy bills have increased by £130 per month. That's £330 for just those two bills. That's an increase of £3,960 for the year (before considering rising cost of food, transport, etc). The company is offering me a salary increase of less than that. Without even considering how much everything else has increased, just paying for a roof over my head and energy to power my computer so I can do my job is my taking a pay cut. I should not have to worry about how I will also feed myself while I work full time.


The company points to one-off cost-of-living payments, but these don't replace a fair wage. I can't rely on one-offs next year; they don't form the basis for my future salary; they don't boost my pension; I can't cite them on a mortgage application. My pay shouldn't be a matter of 'noblesse oblige' — it should be something I can rely on and build a life with.


My monthly mortgage payments are up by 23 per cent - they are now 41 per cent of my take home pay. My weekly shopping bill is up by 15 per cent (despite attempting to cut back). Now I have to spend double on commuting to the office."

"When I started at the company a few years ago  the salary to my younger self seemed like a good deal at the time. I decided to not move to London, as the cost of commuting once a week (what I was told the policy was then) was less than renting in London. Fast forward to 2024, and my money is getting more stretched than I thought it would on a salary which is more than the country average. I now live from paycheque to paycheque. We’re now expected to come into to office more often, but it is not feasible for me to move to London.


Why is 5.8 per cent not enough? Because my salary is not enough. Not enough to do the job I do, which takes more than 8 hours a day, for which I travel, staying up until midnight at conference poster sessions, recruiting papers, talking to people who occasionally verbally abuse you, because they don't like 'glam journals'. Not enough to work on a severely, chronically understaffed team, handling difficult issues like scientific misconduct, corrections, retractions. Not enough after eight years of higher education which cost me tens of thousands of pounds. It is now less than what some post-docs make, not that we should be aiming to earn as much as a notoriously underpaid and underappreciated profession. I left academia to be treated with respect given the skills I bring on board and be able to support myself.


According to the BoE inflation calculator, my salary by now should be 9.6 per cent higher to account for inflation, just not to be effectively losing money, not to mention my seniority of experience being rewarded. 5.8 per cent is just a slap in the face."

"I moved to Springer Nature thinking that working a for profitable company would at least be a benefit financially, but other than my colleagues (who are absolutely amazing) and the specifics of my job (I love the science) I feel like this has been a step down in my quality of life. Fair compensation is the least the company should offer.

The wages make it difficult to hire staff, we get some very good candidates but they don’t take up the job when they realise it would mean a pay cut.

My partner and I recently just brought our first home. Neither of us are from well off backgrounds. Mortgage rates are extremely high and so our monthly mortgage payment is extortionately expensive. We bought in London, where you get much less for your money, as it is no longer affordable to move outside of London with the change in office WFH policy. My partner is on a much lower salary than me, so our monthly budget is very tight. We have no safety buffer for if things go wrong. 5.8 per cent is not enough to cover the cost of living rises from the past year. Our quality of living has decreased. Increase in the cost of living has made it very difficult to keep working full time and balance outgoings and childcare. On top of general increase of bills and consumables, nursery fees have increased by more than 10 per cent in the last year. Two-thirds of my salary is needed just to cover childcare costs."

"Since February 2022 my nursery bills have gone up by 28.7 per cent. Yet my salary rose by 5.75 per cent at the end of 2022 and would now rise by 5.8 per cent, if I accepted the company's current offer. How does that possibly add up? Nursery is an enormous chunk of my outlays, but is only one of the many bills which has rocketed. The cost-of-living payments were helpful but don't account for the fact that bills remain high. Only a permanent pay rise does that.


I am struggling more and more to pay my basic bills on my editor salary. In recent years I have made cuts that have helped me to get by - for example, I no longer have a car or book any holidays that require paying for hotels or other accommodation. The company gave us cost-of-living payments last year that helped me to get by. However, this year there has been no substantial cost of living payment, so we have effectively received a massive pay cut. At the same time, my monthly mortgage payments increased by 23 per cent. This is in addition to increases in almost all of my other bills, eg service charges for my flat, council tax, food bills, insurance.


I was told recently by my dentist that I need dental work, but I can’t afford it, so I have asked if it will be safe to wait a few years. I am hoping to take on extra work outside of my full-time job to be able to pay for these dentist costs. I have several repairs that need done to my home, but I can’t afford to fix these things and worry about causing long term damage to the property. I work long hours in a complex field and am highly qualified. And yet I can’t make ends meet and feel stressed out every time I open a bill reminder through my letterbox.


Working to rule is a way to demonstrate to the decision-makers in the company that the success of the Nature Journals is built on massive amounts of voluntary, unpaid overtime by the editorial and production staff. We sacrifice our time because we care about our research communities. Really, we should all get a bonus at the end of the year, not real terms pay cut."

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