NUJ submits formal ballot notice to Reach plc over pay 

  • 14 Jul 2022

The union will encourage members to vote yes to strike action and action short of strike, in the upcoming industrial action ballot.

The National Union of Journalists has submitted a formal notice to ballot its members for industrial action at Reach plc, Britain’s biggest commercial news publisher, in a dispute over pay.

The union’s decision to undertake the ballot at Reach, owner of the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and a host of major regional titles and associated websites such as the Manchester Evening News and Birmingham Live, follows deadlock in annual pay talks in which bosses failed to make a decent and fair offer to staff.

Reach’s final offer of 3% or £750 guaranteed minimum on salaries was overwhelmingly rejected by the NUJ chapels (workplace branches) in June. The escalating cost of living crisis, fuelled by rising inflation on top of historic low pay, led members to conclude that the company’s offer failed acknowledge the immense contribution they provided to the success of the company.

Last year, the company made an across-the-board award of just 1% or £350 minimum.

The NUJ will encourage members to vote yes to both strike action and to action short of strikes, to deliver a clear message to Reach bosses that a 3% pay rise is not enough.

There are currently around 1,000 union members in Reach but the number is continuing to increase with scores joining since chapels took the decision to reject the offer and move to a ballot.

Chris Morley, NUJ Reach national coordinator, said: 

“Our balloting for industrial action of all our members at Reach plc is an unfortunate landmark and one we as a union hoped we would never have to deploy. A sensible, negotiated settlement would clearly be best not only for our members, but the business too.

“However, journalists’ pay throughout Reach is inadequate for the amazing and crucial work that our members do – especially in midst of runaway inflation that threatens to pauperise many of those stagnating on the lowest pay. The 3% that the company has tabled as their final offer is an insult to our members’ ingenuity and creativity – never mind the damned hard work they do with stressful variable shifts, weekend working and dealing with a, sometimes, hostile and abusive public. It is the crumbs off the table of the company’s millionaires’ board.

“Our members are worth more. We believe the company, for once, must prioritise the workers who are core to its business strategy, rather than the expensive lawyers who are making millions from the phone hacking scandal our members were not culpable for. They need salaries that will pay the bills with RPI inflation now past 11%, not platitudes of thanks from the directors for the great job they do.

“If a media company such as Reach does not properly value its journalists, why should the news-consuming public? Poorly paid journalists are a sign of failure and feeds instability in the workforce – something we are seeing as good staff vote with their feet in favour of other better paying employers, some even out of the industry altogether.

“We know that a company that gave its chief executive a £4m+ pay package – worth the salaries of 104 median paid Reach employees – can do better than a bare £750 payment to the lowest paid staff. That alone will get swallowed up by the rise of the energy price cap in the autumn.

“How do the board members think their journalists reporting on the effects of the cost of living on ordinary working people can do so with credibility, while they themselves are made to struggle by their bosses’ indifference to uncompetitive pay? And the same thing applies when important stories of outrageous boardroom excesses - at the expense of their workers - are covered yet the very same thing is happening close to home.

“Our members have turned to a ballot for industrial action in desperation at the intransigence of the company.

“But there is still time for sense to break out. We call on senior management to think more positively about what their journalists bring to the business and get round the table for proper negotiations in the context of the UK’s worst cost of living crisis in 40 years.”

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