NUJ ballots National World journalists for industrial action
The union is seeking views from over 300 journalists at the publisher on whether they are willing to take strike action in the dispute over pay.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has issued ballot papers to journalists at National World seeking views on whether members are willing to participate in industrial action. The union is encouraging over 300 journalists to vote yes in response to questions on taking strike action and action short of a strike, demonstrating strong opposition to the recently imposed 4.5 per cent pay award, and other concerns forming the ongoing pay dispute.
The company’s pay award had been repeatedly rejected by more than a dozen NUJ chapels representing hundreds of National World journalists, followed by a vote of no confidence in David Montgomery, executive chairman. Despite talks with the publisher including through Acas negotiations urging an improved pay package, uplifts to minimum rates and efforts to improve pay disparities, National World has failed to present an enhanced pay award for journalists.
The NUJ has repeatedly raised concerns over redundancies at the publisher after more than 50 journalists had their roles placed at risk. A separate voluntary redundancy scheme was also opened to all staff, including those outside editorial.
NUJ analysis suggests the news team at nationalworld.com and the SEO, Google Showcase, People World and Data teams have been significantly affected by cuts. The union understands these teams had a combined 55 roles in May, with only 33 journalists in post today. The Google Showcase and Data teams have been removed entirely after all those staff left the business, while four of the eight nationalworld.com specialist roles created as part of the restructuring remain unfilled.
At least 45 journalists have left National World since June through voluntary or compulsory redundancy processes, including staff at titles in Yorkshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North East, the North West, the Midlands and the South coast.
At the same time as making significant cuts to its editorial teams, the company has launched Shots! - a new Freeview TV channel - without any additional journalistic resources. It has also indicated that it has plans to move towards automated print production of its weekly newspaper titles.
The NUJ believes National World can afford to pay journalists a fair wage while addressing structural pay issues at the company. Half-year results published last month indicated a strong cash balance with growing digital revenue, and the company paid £1.4m to shareholders despite pay grades used to set salaries of new and promoted editorial staff remaining frozen. National World confirmed it has "financial flexibility and headroom for investment" and the NUJ is urging a return to negotiations with company profits used in part to improve journalists’ pay at a time where many face financial difficulty.
A National World Group Chapel spokesperson said:
"The number of staff who've chosen to leave National World in recent weeks is a direct reflection of how little faith is left in a management whose only strategy appears to be 'more for less'.
"Staffing on the flagship nationalworld.com website and associated digital teams has been steadily falling since May as people left for better paid roles with employers who offer career progression opportunities, and that exodus has only accelerated with the recent restructuring and David Montgomery's decision to make himself the de facto editor.
"If the board are serious about building a long-term future for the business then they should be investing in their journalists, not slashing jobs at nationalworld.com and in many other newsrooms around the country.
"It's time to finally start paying editorial teams properly for their work, giving them the training and managerial support needed to produce quality journalism, and treating them with basic respect."
The NUJ has informed National World of the ballot closing on 31 August.