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Journalists in pay freeze row question £44k payment

Newsquest journalists who have been carrying out industrial action over pay are demanding answers over a £44,000 payment made by the company in its accounts.

Members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest York, which publishes The Press and the Gazette and Herald, have held a series of mandatory chapel meetings as part of a dispute over a pay freeze.

The journalists claim the accounts for Newsquest Yorkshire & North East Ltd for 2011 show a £1.87m pre-tax profit, but they have had no pay rise for three out of the last four years.

The chapel has also questioned a £44,000 “share-based payment” which was made in 2010 and which they believe could relate to bonus payments to individuals.

Joint fathers of chapel Mark Stead and Tony Kelly said in a statement that management had responded to its questions by saying the payment was a “charge for stock options awarded across the Yorkshire and North East region during the year”.

They said: “This payment would virtually cover the salaries of three trainee journalists or two senior journalists, which in itself illustrates the appalling and unacceptable pay Newsquest editorial staff receive.

“Our request to know precisely what this payment relates to, why it was made and why the company considers it is merited has been greeted by an exercise in opaque and meaningless management-speak.

“To our members, it smacks suspiciously of a bonus or bonuses being awarded to unnamed recipients – presumably comprising or at least including senior managers – by a company which continues to treat its award-winning journalists with contempt over pay and tells them there is no money available to reward them as they deserve.

The chapel proposed resolving the dispute by giving journalists a one-off lump sum payment for 2012, extra holidays or a reduction in fortnightly working hours.

Journalists at Newsquest Bradford have also joined the dispute over the pay freeze and held their first mandatory chapel meeting last Friday.

Management at Newsqeust York was not available for comment at the time of publication.