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News execs asked to pass on union's 'congratulations' over chief's £1m pay package

The Scarborough Evening News National Union of Journalists chapel has sent an open letter to the two executives in charge at Yorkshire Regional Newspapers, managing director Tim Berry and group editorial director Ed Asquith.

It “congratulates” Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler on his pay package exceeding £1m for the first time, and compared his 25 per cent increase in salary and bonus with the inflation-related increase awarded to newsroom staff.

Dear Tim and Ed

With the Johnston Press AGM approaching on Friday, the SEN chapel of the NUJ would like you to pass on our congratulations to Tim Bowdler on his total pay exceeding £1m for the first time, as revealed in the company’s annual report and widely reported in the press. As you probably know, this represents an increase of 25% on his total pay the previous year (which was up 28% on the year before that).

The report states that Mr Bowdler’s basic pay (£572,892) was ‘only’ an increase of 3%, though this similarity to our pay rises is a joke given the bonus which took the total to over £1 million, and his other directorships which brought in another £65,000.

The report also states that Mr Bowdler had to meet ‘challenging’ targets to achieve his enormous bonus, for which we would also ask you to pass on our congratulations.

It must have been really challenging to get the share price tumbling from £5 to less than £1.50 this year. All this and he probably hasn’t made a single video, yet alone taken photos or conducted an interview while shooting video at the same time, learnt how to use Avid editing software, uploaded to and maintained a website, made a photo gallery, or a slideshow, or a podcast.

Clearly these challenging targets set for us journalists by the enforced introduction of multimedia are considered almost worthless by Mr Bowdler, given the pay increases he thought fit for all JP journalists. For us, the extra pay amounted to maybe a couple of hundred pounds, or about 1/2500th of his bonus. Based on basic pay alone, Mr Bowdler’s daily pay is £1,567, so we hope he doesn’t work bank holidays (as we are told not to, unless essential) as his overtime bank-holiday pay would be £2,350, or twice the monthly take-home pay of many of us multimedia journalists.

From the tenor of this letter, we are sure that you will easily be able to imagine how disgusted SEN staff were about Mr Bowdler’s massive rise, having last year been refused the increase we requested and instead having to accept a three-year pay deal barely above inflation (3-5%).

Yours sincerely
Dave Barry, Father-of-Chapel


Mr JP (02/05/2008 20:35:34)
Respect to the SEN chapel for having the courage to say what we all really think about Mr Bowdler and his half-baked media revolution.
£10m on cam-corders and tricksy software won’t do the trick Tim if we haven’t got the people to find and tell the stories.
The share price hasn’t dived because of short-selling mate, it’s because the stock market has seen through JP’s penny-pinching and lack of any proper strategy.

sally petersen (04/05/2008 08:46:29)
Referring to the above I was a journalist working for Johnston’s at one time.
Their office furniture was the tackiest, cheapest stuff you could find and our office conditions were appalling. At one office there were six peple in one office just large enough for three. Then again Chief Exec’s pay has to be found. I bet he has a swish office!
I left in the end and am now a teacher. I was disgusted at the penny pinching that went on.
Stand up and fight you Johnstons’ staff and demand better pay and more staff in your news rooms.
I have changed my name to protect the people I worked with in the Midlands.

Ruth Bedford (04/05/2008 16:27:47)
Having just been told I’m being made redundant after nearly nine years with the company and despite my ‘important’ role as the website editor, all I can say is well done Scarborough.
Management at the top should have seen the current difficulties coming 6 months ago and begun to take action then – not panic measures now, expecting the lowest grade staff and management to pick up the pieces and work twice as hard for even less reward.

Mr CD (04/05/2008 20:34:02)
As a JP employee I can only applaud the union for having the guts to write something like this.
Johnston Press is the very definition of penny-pinching.
From refusing to fill essential vacancies to refusing to provide essential resources people need to make a stand.
Congrats on the payrise Mr Bowdler.