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Union's pay negotiations begin at newspaper group

Union officials have started to negotiate pay rises for journalists across Johnston Press following the end of an 18-month pay freeze.

The National Union of Journalists says it is carrying out pay negotiations in many centres, with some staff understood to have already accepted rises of around 2pc.

And the move has led to the union abandoning plans for any strikes at present over the introduction of the Atex content management system.

Some centres had been expected to hold separate ballots after a High Court injunction gained by Johnston Press prevented a one-day strike going ahead – but the NUJ has admitted there is no longer the ‘appetite’ to do this.

Jenny Lennox, assistant organiser for the publishing department at the NUJ, said there were no strike ballots planned at present, although the possibility of future ones had not been ruled out.

She said the union’s pay negotiations with the newspaper group were taking place on a six-month staggered basis, depending when wage reviews were due at each centre, and offers had generally been around 2pc.

Ms Lennox said: “They announced the pay freeze was ended about three days after our ballot notification went in, so we see it as a bit of a victory.

“Generally the offers have been about 2pc. We put in an initial pay claim of 5pc or £1,000 in December and that was re-sent when the freeze ended.

“Pay doesn’t solve the problems but there are a number of things the company is doing to try to improve Atex, such as working around the long hours which people have been experiencing.”

She added chapel representatives were due to meet again in the autumn to discuss progress on the improvement measures.

Some centres are understood to have already settled for 2pc, including titles in Worthing and Hastings.

Others such as the Yorkshire Post are believed to have asked for a number of concessions because they have not had Atex introduced yet.

Following the High Court injunction, each chapel would have had to hold separate ballots involving each individual JP subsidiary, and it emerged it was unlikely group-wide industrial action would take place.

Johnston Press declined to comment.


Grunt (04/08/2010 09:27:57)
NUJ backing down over 2pc? Yeah, you stick it to JP, eh! Toothless. Absolutely toothless.

Parvenu (04/08/2010 10:46:54)
Grunt – don’t blame the NUJ. The last thing they should do is shunt their members into industrial action when it’s clear the vast majority are not actually prepared to strike. What would that achieve? It would just divide the union, lead to mass resignations and leave a small number of brave activists exposed and unsupported.
Better to keep the union together and try to squeeze any positives they can out of the situation – after the debacle of the last ballot for industrial action (sorry, but it was a debacle)the union has to deal with the reality – and they appear to be trying to do that.

Metman (04/08/2010 11:32:27)
So remind me again what the point of the union is?

Parvenu (04/08/2010 12:01:09)
Er, to do what its membership wants it to do?
In this case it would be not to lead them out on a futile, destructive strike that is clearly not supported by the majority of its members.

Reporter (04/08/2010 12:20:02)
We had a signed three year pay deal in place at our newspaper (JP owned).
The bosses went back on it in the second year.
Union was told. And subsequently did absolutely NOTHING to help.
Consulting the union is now little more than box ticking.

Parvenu (04/08/2010 13:29:13)
Agree with every word Reporter, but the union cannot lead its members out on strike if only a few of them (I mean us, as I’m a member)are willing to support it.

Nuncio (04/08/2010 15:00:25)
Meanwhile in Northcliffe Towers the writing on the wall is, and I quote: ”It has been decided that with current trading trends looking ominous, the salary freeze will remain in place across Northcliffe Media until March 2011, at which time the plan is to remove it, dependent on economic conditions.”
Read into that what you will…

Reporter (04/08/2010 15:09:46)
The union may have more luck in convincing members to strike if it did not alienate many of them by essentially leaving them out on a limb.
We had one meeting at our centre with a regional NUJ rep. He said he would report back to us and take it from there.
We are still waiting to hear back…

hackette (05/08/2010 13:08:04)
Union was up against a pretty ruthless bunch of directors.
As a contact described modern weeklies to me: “a word factory managed by accountants and content gatherers who are simply cut and paste administrators! It is a far cry from the good old days we used to enjoy before we were squeezed by the privates and made to work under such appalling conditions…..
Not a lot the union can do I fear.