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Strike begins as 1,150 Reach journalists walk out over pay

Journalists have staged a walkout from regional newspapers across the United Kingdom this morning in an ongoing dispute over pay.

The National Union of Journalists says an estimated 1,150 members working for Reach plc titles have begun the first of four days of strike action in a bid to secure an increase in salary.

It comes after the union previously rejected a salary increase of 3pc or £750, whichever is more, from Reach on the grounds that such a raise would not be enough to help journalists to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

Two subsequent rounds of talks conducted through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, one of which led to the postponement of a planned strike on Friday, have failed to produce a settlement.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, with striking Reach journalists on the picket line at the company's London headquarters in Canary Wharf

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, with striking Reach journalists on the picket line at the company’s London headquarters in Canary Wharf

The NUJ has claimed Reach chief executive Jim Mullen personally vetoed a deal and has passed a motion of no confidence in him.

The union has now set up picket lines in cities including Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dublin, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “We accepted the company’s invitation to talks brokered by ACAS, but ultimately, the lack of willingness on the part of Reach chief executive Jim Mullen to budge an inch meant the negotiations were doomed to failure.

“This is a business with cash in the bank, a business that is happy to spend £7m on lavish pay packages for its top two executives, a business that is about to hand over a further £4m to shareholders.

“Yet is also a business that believes its hard-working journalists deserve a whopping real terms pay cut, and refuses to come to an agreement on pay that will ensure our members can keep themselves and their families afloat this winter.

“It’s shameful that a media company that positions itself as a voice for communities around the UK and Ireland, with many titles that claim to be an ally of working people, would choose to treat its own staff so shabbily.”

A total of 1,093 NUJ members at Reach were balloted, with 749 members out of 1,069 in the UK returning their ballot papers – a turnout of 70pc.

Of those to return their papers, 594, or 79pc, voted in favour of strike action and 657, or 88pc, in favour of action short of a strike.

A further three-day walkout from Wednesday 14 September Friday 16 September is planned, while a “work to rule” action will also take place from 1 September to 13 September.

A Reach spokesperson said today: “We greatly value our journalists and are disappointed that, despite our best efforts during a long negotiation process and successful agreements with Unite and the BAJ, we have been unable to reach an agreement with the NUJ.

“Whilst this is not the outcome we would have wished for, 2022 continues to be extremely challenging for the whole publishing sector with reduced demand for advertising and energy inflation driving the cost of newsprint to record levels.

We therefore remain focused on protecting the interests of all our colleagues and stakeholders, ensuring the group has a sustainable future in the face of an uncertain economic climate.

“We continue to be open to further talks at any time to resolve this dispute and move forward.”