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Another regional publisher imposes pay freeze

Johnston Press today became the latest leading regional newspaper to introduce a pay freeze following similar moves by Trinity Mirror and Newsquest.

The company said that, as a result of the continued severe downturn in advertising markets, 2009 basic salary reviews will be deferred for a period of six months for all employees.

Journalists at JP titles were told of the move in a company memo circulated this morning.

Chief executive Tim Bowdler said: “Regrettably, in the light of falling revenues and continued uncertainty, this decision is necessary to help safeguard the future of our companies.

“In six months’ time, we hope our operating companies will be in a better position to determine the impact of the recession and to decide whether or not a salary increase can be afforded.

“Over the few next weeks, our company MDs will be holding meetings with our employees and trade union representatives to explain the decision and discuss how it impacts local agreements.”

The decision seems likely to fracture a peace deal agreed last month when the National Union of Journalists withdrew plans for company-wide action against JP in return for a pledge of greater consultation on future restructuring plans.

The NUJ has already reacted with anger to the announcement, accusing the company of reneging on two and three year pay deals that it says have already been agreed.

General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Our members simply don’t accept that they have to pay the price for corporate failure. It’s incomprehensible that a company which made operating profits of over £178 million last year can’t now afford to keep promises to its staff.

“This is all about the appalling financial mismanagement of Johnston Press. The company prided itself on massive and unsustainable profit margins, taking cash out of the business, whilst putting the company in the red.

“Now as those debts are being called in, managers can be found floundering, without any strategy except to cutback on already stretched editorial budgets.

“The bad faith being shown by the company is unbelievable. We’ll be consulting our members about how they want to respond to the announcement, but anger is already running high so the prospect of action can’t be ruled out.”