A regional daily editor has defended bonus payments given to staff who crossed a picket line while journalists at the title were on strike.
Around 40 members of the National Union of Journalists at the Southern Daily Echo walked out on Tuesday and Wednesday last week in their second 48-hour strike over the ongoing Newsquest pay freeze, setting up their own blog to chart the dispute.
But union members now say managers are provoking possible further industrial action after claiming staff who crossed the picket line were awarded a bonus of two days’ extra pay.
Editor-in-chief Ian Murray said the payments were given to staff who worked extra hours and carried out additional duties, stressing not everyone had received the same bonus payments.
He said: “Staff who worked during the two periods of industrial action carried out extra duties and covered extra hours and this has been recognised. As such not everyone received the same payment.
“In my letter to those staff explaining the extra payments, I recognised that no one continued to work through the strike action in order to achieve personal gain and fully understood they may wish to donate their extra payments to charity. That is their choice.
“I am surprised that the NUJ would not wish for journalists to be recompensed for their efforts. To suggest that staff not in work should receive part of the payments due to those who did carry out extra duties is patently absurd.”
The NUJ chapel say their dispute over pay, which has been going on for eight months, could have been ended if this money had been distributed evenly among all staff.
Father of chapel David Brine said: “The chapel are meeting next Tuesday and we are going to decide what our next course of action is then. We haven’t ruled anything in or out.
“But we are disappointed after being told for eight months there’s no money, to see it being handed out.
“It will be up to our members to decide exactly what they want to do in response.”
The chapel said some staff members were uncomfortable with accepting the bonus and has invited them to donate it to its strike fund.
NUJ members initially went on strike on 9-10 November and were due to hold another 48-hour walkout the following week but this was called off to hold further talks with management.
At the meeting which was held, the union says it suggested staff were offered a one-off bonus to end the dispute, but management said this was not possible.
Ahead of the meeting, editor-in-chief Ian Murray had already said the wage freeze was not up for discussion.
Further strike action has been voted for by a number of other Newsquest centres over the pay freeze and job cuts, while ballots are being held at a number of other centres.