Journalists are considering legal action against a regional publisher over a pay reduction introduced due to the coronavirus crisis, union chiefs have claimed.
The National Union of Journalists says members at Reach plc are seeking recompense for money lost after the company brought in the measure, which saw staff wages cut by a minimum of 10pc, at the start of April.
Similar moves were made by groups operating across the regional press industry around the same time, and Reach says it is due to review the measures later this month.
An unnamed union official told The Guardian: “Our advice is that, on the face of it, the company is clearly in breach of contract and has opened itself up to an unlawful deduction of wages claim by cutting our pay without our consent.
“Our members have suggested various ways that the company could recompense us for the money that we have lost.
“But if we can’t reach agreement then ultimately the grievance will allow us to consider taking legal action on behalf of those covered by it.”
All members of Reach’s board, along with some members of the senior editorial and management teams, took a pay cut of 20pc, while other staff saw pay reduced by 10pc.
A company spokesperson told The Guardian: “Following sector-wide declines in circulation and advertising resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, we have regrettably had to take proactive measures at all levels on pay reduction and to suspend annual bonuses for 2020 to protect jobs and to protect the Reach business for the long term.
“April group revenues were down 30.5pc and there continues to be uncertainty around the severity and length of the crisis.”
Speaking to HTFP, a Reach spokesman added: “All of these measures were taken as short term actions in the light of the crisis and as we said at the outset they would all be reviewed during this month.”
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midland organiser, said: “The NUJ is committed to seeking an ongoing dialogue with the company about pay and conditions of staff.
“We want to ensure the pay cuts are ended at the earliest possible date and we want to see the company thrive as a business that keeps employing journalists and provides quality journalism to the communities it serves.
“At the moment, the information provided to NUJ members is insufficient but the union is examining all the options available to make sure our members’ voices are heard.
“The company needs to fully understand the real problems and difficulties that the pay cut is having on people’s lives.”