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Pay dispute settled at South Yorkshire Newspapers

The dispute over pay at South Yorkshire Newspapers has ended after National Union of Journalists members agreed to accept the 2.75 per cent pay offer they were originally offered.

Union members at the Doncaster Free Press, Doncaster Advertiser, South Yorkshire Times, Epworth Bells, Goole Courier, Gainsborough Standard and the Community Newsletter say they agreed to the deal on the basis that talks for next year’s pay deal would begin immediately on a national level.

The NUJ says general secretary Jeremy Dear or a regional organiser will negotiate with human resources staff at the Edinburgh head office of SYN’s parent company, Johnston Press.

But there appears to be some confusion over the agreement, as Johnston Press human resources director Malcolm Vickers told HoldtheFrontPage that negotiations would continue to be held at a local level and would not involve him.

He said: “As yet we don’t have formal acceptance of the 2006 deal in Doncaster.

“What I can say is that the deal on the table is the same deal which was on the table prior to the start of any industrial action.

“As far as 2007 is concerned, once the 2006 deal has been accepted we will sit down at an appropriate time and discuss the pay review at a local level.”

The deal follows 13 days of strike action held between July 12 and August 2, and a two-week work to rule, after pay negotiations broke down in June.

Union members returned to work on August 3 so that talks between union representatives and SYN management could resume.

In addition to a 2.75 per cent pay rise across the board, backdated to April 1, the union says senior reporters or photographers with two or five years service will receive additional enhancements.

NUJ mother of chapel Emma Roots said: “Strike action was a last resort after nine months of meetings in which local management at South Yorkshire Newspapers seemed unable to grasp the depth of frustration over low pay levels.

“We believe we have now made our point and look forward to some more constructive negotiations over next year’s pay award.”

Editor-in-chief Graeme Huston said: “I’m delighted that we have everyone back and the threat of further industrial action has been lifted.

“We have a lot to do here and this has been a distraction. I’m looking forward to the weeks and months to come.

“It has been a very well-natured dispute and apart from the days when I have lost 20-odd members of staff it has been, to a degree, business as usual.

“I’m pleased it’s over.”

SYN managing director Terry Johnson added: “As we understand it the chapel has accepted the offer.

“I echo Graeme’s comments. The NUJ conducted themselves well.”