Journalists have claimed a regional publisher has banned them from holding union meetings in their newspaper’s office.
According to the NUJ, union members based at the Dalston Road office are meeting today at Carlisle City Council’s headquarters instead to discuss a year-long pay claim, after the authority’s leader Colin Glover agreed they could use the building.
The decision to bar the NUJ from meeting at Dalston Road ended “decades of cooperation” with the News & Star’s former owner the CN Group, its Carlisle chapel said, although Newsquest says it is “common practice” for union meetings to be held off-site.
The chapel had lodged a five per cent pay claim in an attempt to reverse “years of pay erosion”, which it says has reduced earnings in real terms by around 20 to 25 pc, and is set to consider a response to what it describes as a pay freeze by the publisher.
Newsquest bought the previously family-owned CN Group in March this year.
A spokesperson for the chapel said: “The message our members are taking from this decision on pay is depressingly clear: Newsquest does not value its journalists in Cumbria. Any journalist who joins this company should expect a future of continuous pay erosion. In recent years, our journalists have taken on ever more responsibility for diminishing reward.
“The net result has been a steady and continuous loss of our most experienced local journalists. On this evidence, we can only conclude that Newsquest Cumbria in the long term is likely to be staffed primarily by transient, overworked, underpaid, journalists, who are either trainees or recently qualified. This will clearly help the firm to keep its costs down, but it will not secure a safe, viable business for the future.
“Driving away our most experienced journalists is bad for local journalism. This latest pay freeze – and the decision to ban all NUJ meetings in a building with more than enough empty rooms – shows clearly that the new owners of this long-established media company do not value journalists, nor journalism.
“Rewarding its journalists seems to be the last item on this firm’s list of spending priorities. By contrast, the current administration of Carlisle city council has signalled that it does value its local journalists.
“The Carlisle NUJ chapel wishes to put on record its appreciation of the support for the chapel shown by Mr Glover, who was happy to provide a room for our meeting.”
A Newsquest spokesman said: “Our focus is on placing the CN Group business on a sustainable footing and securing jobs for the future. It is also common practice across Newsquest that union meetings are held off-site.”