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Six days of strike action announced

Union members at a second Newsquest company have voted to take strike action in a bid to secure improved pay.

The National Union of Journalists at Newsquest Kendal – which publishes the Westmorland Gazette, Lancaster and South Lakes Citizens, Westmorland Messenger, Limited Edition magazine and thewebsite thisisthelakedistrict – has rejected the company’s new offer of a £325 per annum rise.

They have tabled a claim for 9.5 per cent and members now plan to strike on February 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20.

The proposed action follows plans by Newsquest Bradford union members to walk out in a series of stoppages starting tomorrow.

The 27 members of the NUJ in Kendal – out of a total staff of around 30 – voted 100 per cent in favour of taking industrial action over pay.

In a secret ballot 100 per cent of journalists taking part voted for action short of a strike – while 96 per cent supported strike action. The turnout was 92.5 per cent.

Regional organiser Miles Barter said: “The average NUJ member’s wage is around £17,000. Publicly available figures show that in 2001 Newsquest Kendal increased the dividend paid to shareholders to just under £2m – a rise of 255 per cent.

“The management offer was 1.5 per cent. After the ballot they improved it to £325 per person which they say is two per cent of the wage bill.”

Mike Glover, editor/publisher, of Westmorland Gazette Newspapers, said the NUJ had made an “unrealistic” demand for a 9.5 per cent increase across the board and the company had explained that its proposals had been made in the light of the enormous uncertainty over the economy.

He said: “We have responsibility to protect the interests of all our employees.

“After our initial offer the NUJ went straight for an industrial action ballot. Following our initial meetings the company revised and restructured its offer so that each journalist would receive the same monetary increase.

“This had the effect of increasing the total amount available and helping the least well paid. This was in response to representations made by the NUJ.

“We very much regret their decision to strike, particularly as our other employees have all accepted a similar increase. But we continue to talk to the local chapel representatives in the hope of coming to an agreement that means the union calls off its threatened action.”

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