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Strike-hit publisher’s employees relying on food banks, union official claims

Paul BreedenRegional press employees are having to use food banks to feed their families, a union official has claimed ahead of strike action.

National Union of Journalists Bristol branch treasurer Paul Breeden has made the claim as journalists at Reach plc titles including the Bristol Post and Western Daily Press prepare to walk out for 24 hours on Friday in a pay dispute.

A report by independent news website Bristol 24/7 has stated a total of 14 journalists have left Reach’s Bristol team since the start of this year – more than half of the Post’s editorial staff.

Journalists working for the Post also opened up earlier this year on their struggles to find affordable housing in the city.

Paul, pictured, told Bristol 24/7 staff at the Post “have already suffered years of historically low pay, and now the contempt with which Reach plc treats its journalists is catching up with the management”.

He said: “The issues with low pay will shock people.

“Reach employees in this region have had to use food banks to feed their families.

“Journalists are required by the company to live in the communities they report on, but with such low wages being paid to young reporters, they struggle to find anywhere in Bristol they can afford.

“Then, to complete the gaslighting, the Reach management make reporters write about their own struggles with the housing crisis in Bristol and the West Country, oblivious to the bitter irony.”

The walkout is set to be the first of four over the coming month.

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

Despite saying it remains open to negotiations, Reach has asserted that there will be no increased pay offer put on the table in any talks.

Striking NUJ members in the West Country will join a picket line outside the Post and WDP’s offices on Baldwin Street.

They will be joined by journalists working on the Bath Chronicle, Gloucestershire Echo, Gloucester Citizen, Western Gazette, Wells Journal, Shepton Mallet Journal, Central Somerset Gazette and Cheddar Valley Gazette.

According to B24/7, it will be the first time journalists have gone on strike in the city for more than 40 years.

A Reach spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage any Reach colleague facing difficulties to come to their local HR team in confidence as we can offer a number of practical options to help.

“We are also currently looking at how we can best give more widespread support to those who need it during a challenging time.”