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Publisher attacks union bosses over disputed daily strike threat claim

Michelle Stanistreet 1A regional publisher has attacked union bosses over claims a regional daily’s journalists threatened strike action earlier this year.

Newsquest has accused the National Union of Journalists of making “deeply inaccurate” allegations about a dispute involving staff at the Oxford Mail.

The publisher’s criticism concerns NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet’s speech at the Trades Union Congress, in which she referred to action by the union’s Oxford and District branch over what it termed “fire and rehire” plans for around 15 staff at the Mail.

In her speech during a fringe meeting at the TUC, Michelle said “brave members” had threatened strike action before a negotiated settlement was reached with Newsquest.

But Newsquest has hit back at the claims, disputing that such action was ever on the table.

In May, the NUJ said Newsquest had issued termination notices to staff at the titles after its members rejected a proposal to end ‘time-and-a-half’ pay for working on bank holidays – excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Michelle, pictured, said in her speech on Monday: “In Oxford, our very brave members threatened strike action and a stand-off ensued. Eventually, we arrived at a negotiated settlement that retained enhanced payments for some public holidays but not all.

“It was not everything that we hoped for, but it showed that resistance is possible, and it prompted renewed organising and vigour at our NUJ chapel.

“As employment markets in many sectors tighten, we must empower workers to take this kind of action when they are threatened.

“And our members in Oxford did a brilliant job of engaging local politicians and the wider community that they work within, who were loud and vocal in telling the company that it expects better from their local paper.”

At the time, the NUJ’s campaign received backing from Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East and chair of the Labour Party.

But in response to Michelle’s speech, a Newsquest spokesman said: “The NUJ’s statement is deeply inaccurate.

“At no point did the union threaten strike action, nor did it negotiate retaining payment for specific bank holidays as the company never proposed removing these in the first place.

“We are concerned that the NUJ would seek to mislead people in this way.”