Journalists at an independent publisher will vote on whether to strike over “pay, potential job losses and working practices”.
According to the NUJ, the dispute concerns pay after unauthorised deductions in salaries over three months, potential compulsory redundancies in the coming months and “divisive” working practices – with the new chapel saying some of its members “had to consider going to foodbanks”.
Titles affected include the Coventry Observer, Leamington Observer, Rugby Observer, Stratford Observer, Solihull Observer, Redditch Standard, Bromsgrove Standard, Worcester Observer and Evesham Observer.
The union says staff across all titles were hit with unannounced shortfalls in pay for March, April and May – finally being paid last week after complaints from the union.
In a statement, the Bullivant Media Limited NUJ chapel said: “Working non-furloughed staff, many already on the breadline, had to consider going to foodbanks after getting to the end of each month of working hard in good faith, only to discover no salary in their bank accounts, or 70pct and 50pc unauthorised deductions.
“We understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses and the media industry. But those working staff who were told they would not be furloughed have been consistently left in the dark and out of pocket.
“There has been no attempt to find agreement on pay and working practices and little goodwill from the company. The company’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been to demand more output from staff in an attempt to address its cash flow issues and deficits.
“Working staff have gone without annual leave and there are health and safety concerns with a skeleton staff being pushed beyond the limits. Also at dispute are incursions without agreement by non-editorial staff into editorial roles, despite journalists’ track-record of growing digital audiences by working as teams.
“We continue to invite the company to respond to our reasonable demands for fair pay and working practices and strike action would be a last resort.”
HTFP has approached Bullivant Media for a comment.