Journalists at three North East newspapers have started four weeks of industrial action over a continuing pay freeze and changes to holiday benefits.
Members of the National Union of Journalists at the Northern Echo, Darlington and Stockton Times and the Durham Times are understood to have started the action on Monday – where they will only work their contracted hours.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern regional organiser, said it was centred around the continuing pay freeze at Newsquest titles and the removal of holiday benefits.
He said the pay freeze across the group had been in place since 2008 and the chapel in the North East, which has 62 members, had decided to go through the dispute process with the company over this.
Mr Morley claimed the company had also decided earlier this year to withdraw a long-standing benefit, where staff at the centres were given a day’s leave on their birthdays, and said there was no consultation with the union on this.
He said: “This is a very well established benefit which we can track back at least 10 years. Everybody in the company was entitled to it and it was appreciated as a gesture for the hard work that their members do.
“They said it is non-contractual. We say it is because it has become so well known, so it is an implied term in their contracts.
“We have met with the company at each stage through the dispute procedure until we got to the final part and they refused to go into the next stage involving ACAS.
“The chapel was left with no option but to ballot for industrial action.”
Under the action, Mr Morley said union members will only work their contracted hours of 75 per fortnight, there will be weekly mandatory chapel meetings and journalists whose birthday falls in the period will take a day’s holiday.
No one from Newsquest had responded to requests for a comment at the time of publication.
Anon (27/08/2010 10:43:24)
I can’t see they really have a leg to stand on when it comes to the birthday time off. They should be grateful that the company allowed this for 10 years even though it wasn’t an entitlement, as Chris Morley might want to think. Our Newsquest title has never even entertained the idea.
When it comes to the pay freeze they have my total support. I’m poorer now than I’ve ever been and there’s no hint of a pay rise in sight.
I wish we had a chapel, but nobody here seems to care less about the union until it all hits the fan. Which it will. Then they’ll whinge and moan about the treatment we’re getting (and have been getting for years) but there’ll be absolutley nothing they can do about it.
Apathy rules here, so well done to the northerners for doing something about it!
Jimmy C (27/08/2010 10:57:52)
A day off on their birthday – jesus what is this, primary school! Hilarious.
Former journo (27/08/2010 11:04:02)
In 30-plus years of journalism – print and broadcast – I never came across a day off because it was my birthday…get a life!
So glad not to be working for Newsquest any longer (27/08/2010 11:29:29)
Those who are young enough would be well advised to create a new career away from the likes of Newsquest, Johnston, Trinity Mirror, etc.
You only have to look at the circulation figures, published earlier this week, to realise that newspapers are a dying industry. The pay in comparison with other professions will only get worse and so will the conditions.
hilary (27/08/2010 11:37:20)
Trust you lot to leap on the birthday thing as a stick to beat the workers with! No, they haven’t got a legal leg to stand on – but it’s little things like that, call it custom and practice if you like, that show the staff that their company appreciates them locally. Then some suit from head office comes along and says “disgraceful, we can’t have the slaves getting little privileges like that, it might harm the dividend/our bonuses” and scraps it arbitrarily. The same thing happened with a Christmas shopping day that the staff at the Citizen in Gloucester used to get. One year we just weren’t allowed it. End of.
Newsquest management could, for instance, have issued a memo to the union and staff saying that they proposed to scrap it for economic reasons and asking for views. But I bet they didn’t because legally they didn’t have to. Morally? Who cares?
The whole thing is symptomatic of the attitude of modern newspaper bosses to their editorial staff and goes against all the principles of good employee management. Bah, humbug!
What a farce! (27/08/2010 11:38:04)
Whatever next? Are we going to complain when a company stops handing out tissues cos staff have got a smivvly nosey wosey!!PATHETIC!!!!!
R McGeddon (27/08/2010 12:16:12)
Those who are accusing the Newsquest staff of whinging should look at it this way. Your employer tells that they are going to cut a day off your annual holiday entitlement without any consultation.
How happy would you be about that?
Ho Hum (27/08/2010 15:46:32)
One day, the NUJ will adopt a pragmatic approach to these sorts of things and accept that some battles can’t be won. Strike action doesn’t stop papers coming out, and the only people who suffer as a result of work to rule are the staff themselves, because the work ends up being shoved on to other people. Perhaps the NUJ should ask itself why Newsquest doesn’t consult with the union before making decisions. The NUJ takes a lot of money off journalists every month, and it wouldn’t hurt to see more than just headline-grabbing stunts for that money.
Col Kurtz (27/08/2010 16:49:17)
Going on strike over something as banal and trivial as this is yet further evidence that the NUJ is woefully ill-equipped to deal with the problems facing the industry in 2010.
R McGeddon – every company gives you 25 days a year holiday, you are getting 26. If you want genuine workplace protection then you need to stop thinking of yourself as more special than others at different papers and companies.
Baldie (27/08/2010 17:15:52)
Sigh – modern-day journalism has become obsessed with entitlement rather than achievement, as a journo for more than 20 years (working with Johnston, Trinity and Newsquest)the job has never been about 9 to 5, the job has never been about the money, the job is about that passion for getting the story, breaking it first, making a difference. Young journalists take note, this is not working for the council, you don’t clock in and out, you live and breathe the job – if you don’t think you work in the best industry in the world find one that fits you better, staying and complaining will get you nowhere. Private industry across the globe has had to make sacrifices, why are we the exception? In Britain we have become spoiled and lazy and journalism has not escaped that. A day off for your birthday, oh please give me a break. And are newspapers are dying? Maybe, technology changes but there is still a market, what isn’t in doubt is that journalism will always be around whatever the medium, but as usual rather than embrace change and carve out a place in the new world we sit around and whinge that the old one is ending. Talent and hard work always shines through.
Lister (31/08/2010 08:44:30)
Now that the Newsquest representatives who declined to have their say in the story have undoubtedly contributed to the comments, I will, as an employee of Newsquest North-East, just clear up one or two points. Baldie – a question. Do you think the eleven people made redundant at Darlington last year did not fit your description of dedicated journalists? Do you think their talent and hard work did not “shine through”? Some of those eleven had worked on the nationals; some had worked on newspapers around the world; some had worked as editors of Newsquest publications – though without the title and without the salary. In recognition of their loyalty they were handed their P45s. And Ho Hum and Col Kurtz – the word “strike” appears in your comments though not in the st
ory. Is this an indication of your journalistic ability – or lack of it? You remaining critics have picked up on one small item on a much wider agenda that includes a two-year pay freeze, Newsquest’s ripping up of the house agreement, and its point-blank refusal to discus profits and talk to Acas – and that’s before we start on the impending closure of the final salary pension scheme. Finally, our industrial action is a work to rule. This means, quite simply, that while we will continue to work professionally and thoroughly, we are no longer prepared to devalue our profession and undermine our job security by working for nothing in an organisation where loyalty is a one-way concept.
See ya (31/08/2010 09:21:05)
Baldie – this patronising view is why many journos and subs are on a poor salary. And why so many good ones leave the industry!
‘Young journalists take note, this is not working for the council, you don’t clock in and out, you live and breathe the job’
ALSO I dont know any council workers who clock in and out. And many do live and breathe the job – housing managers, social servces etc. GET REAL
Inside (31/08/2010 12:55:03)
Another newsquest northeast employer and we’re not all happy with the action. It’s pathetic, divisive and totally out of keeping with our grievances. We will just make the working standards worse with our actions. We knew what the job was like when we started and we’re treated with some respect by certain levels of management. Not any more we won’t.