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Gazette staff to walk out after Euro elections

Journalists are set to strike over pay at the Blackpool Gazette and its sister weekly newspapers.

The National Union of Journalists has held a number of ballots and agreed on the one-day stoppage for its members on Friday June 11, the day after European elections take place in the region.

The union claims that staff believe the pay deal offered – of a minimum of three per cent – does not reflect their part in making the paper the success it is – winning the Regional Newspaper of the Year award from the Newspaper Society last year and seeing circulation rise by 1.4 per cent, one of the biggest increases in the country.

A company statement said: “Following extensive pay negotiations, members of the NUJ employed by Blackpool Gazette and Herald Ltd have voted in favour of industrial action in support of their pay claim.

“The company offer is generous by any current standards. It combines a very fair basic increase with significant improvements in the existing salary structure.

“Whilst we will always endeavour to take a constructive approach, we have now made our best offer. We have made it clear to the journalists that industrial action will not result in any improvements and will benefit no one.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that the quality and frequency of our publications will not suffer as a result of any action taken by the NUJ.”

The statement added that the union had given notice of its intention to take industrial action on Friday June 11, based on only 36 per cent voting in favour of strike action.

“The majority chose not to vote, are not members of the NUJ, or actively voted against strike action”, it said.

The NUJ says workers on the Johnston Press-owned title have rejected an offer which would leave existing senior journalists with all their professional qualifications on £18,000 – or lower on the group’s weekly titles, which include the Lytham St Annes Express.

There are 40 NUJ members among some 50 editorial staff and they voted 19-7 in favour of the one-day strike, after previous votes of 17-13 in favour of strike action and 21-9 for action not including a stoppage.

Johnston Press, which owns 241 local newspapers and runs 160 community websites, recently recorded a 15 per cent increase in turnover, which rose to £491.8m, and a 38 per cent boost to pre-tax profits, reaching £128m – and signalled its intention to use its solid business base to expand its interests further.

The union is asking for support on the picket line and for donations to cover the strikers’ lost pay.

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