Reach cost-of-living payment, too little and “out of touch”

  • 02 Sep 2022

Reach has announced to staff  that the company is to unilaterally pay £400 in two payments to relieve the cost-of-living burden to some employees, just two days after the first group-wide strike by the NUJ.

Having told staff that there was no new money that can be afforded to improve the income of staff in the face of the worst inflation in 40 years, management now makes a gesture that will cost an estimated £1m-plus to fulfil.

The fact that Reach wants to pay more in the current circumstances is not the problem. Additional help must be given in the face of double-digit inflation and a looming winter crisis. While the change of position is welcome, the issue is that the amount put forward without any discussion with recognised unions and capped to those earning £50,000 and below.

The sums do not touch the sides when it comes to the huge real-terms cut from rampant inflation that members face. It will satisfy few and, at the same time, ignores the collective bargaining process giving our members no opportunity to take a reasonable view on it.

With this announcement coming after the first-ever group-wide strike action by the NUJ on Wednesday 31 August, our members could be forgiven for concluding that this payment is designed to divide the workforce and buy off further strike action.

A scheduled meeting of reps from the Reach NUJ Group Chapel will consider the latest development.

This sum is incapable of buying off those for whom two taxable £200 payments represents just a 20 per of the increase in the domestic energy price cap declared last week, never mind almost every other price rise for the very essentials of life that members are facing.

The fact that senior managers have chosen to do this without any attempt to speak to the NUJ first is disrespectful to our 1,200 members and does not assist in achieving a real resolution and settlement to this dispute.

But it does show that the company can and must do better to help its staff get through the growing individual financial crises they face in the coming months. If it is possible to reward shareholders with a half-year dividend pay-out worth £14m this month, and to give the chief executive a £4m-plus package worth the pay and benefits of 104 average paid Reach employees, it can still do more to support employees whose offices have closed and the costs of working from home being dumped on them.

Chris Morley, Reach NUJ national coordinator, said:

“Our members are bemused that senior managers have acted in such an ill-judged and blundering way. It gives the lie to the company’s ability to improve its pay offer but also manages to disrespect our members and the union they wish to have their pay and conditions negotiated through.

“The best that can be said is that this could be the opening needed to start a more productive dialogue which can navigate a successful way out of this dispute for the company. As such, we would urge the company to now come forward with a sensible pay package for journalists that could form the basis for settlement.

“Our members simply want fair treatment from a profitable and cash generative business in a time of deep financial crisis for them and their families.”

The NUJ has issued the company with new formal notice of  three day's strike action from 14-16 September .

Picture Mike Pinder:  Reach strikers in Newcastle on Wednesday 31 August

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