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Journalists mull strike action as publisher launches fresh redundancy scheme

National WorldA cuts-hit regional publisher could be hit with strike action after launching a fresh voluntary redundancy scheme for its journalists.

National World is calling for editorial staff who have found its new operating model “concerning” to apply for the scheme, while the National Union of Journalists has this morning announced more than 300 members at the company will be balloted over a possible strike due to a pay dispute.

The VR scheme’s launch came on Tuesday, just four days after a redundancy process closed following a series of planned cuts across the group affecting more than 50 journalists.

The call for VR applications was made to staff by National World HR and communications director Claire Jackson in an announcement to staff, which has been seen by HTFP.

Claire wrote: “The company continues to evolve our operating model, recognising the changing shape of the sector and the ongoing economic challenges of the industry.

“Over recent weeks we have undertaken restructuring across many business areas to better shape our teams to provide the digital focus and expert knowledge required to create a sustainable future for National World.

“The business, and its people, continue to need to adapt at pace to the changes required by this operating model and we recognise that some individuals may find this concerning.

“Therefore, for a limited period of time, the company is introducing a voluntary redundancy scheme that is open to all staff.”

Those wishing to apply have been given a deadline of 5pm on 1 August 2023.

Claire added: “We understand that this is a relatively short period of time but wish to ensure that we are able to move forward quickly and reduce the uncertainty this process involves.

“Redundancy terms are offered to all staff with more than two years service and are two weeks basic pay per year of service to a maximum of 20 years (40 weeks) or £30,000 (whichever is the lower).

“As part of this scheme we are also able to consider applications from employees interested in reducing their working hours.

“Should these requests be accepted a compensatory payment would be available.”

The fresh bid to cut staff comes after it was last month revealed that five deputy editors and three audience editors who are responsible for running the newsdesks of National World’s eight city daily titles were among more than 50 journalists being placed at risk of redundancy.

Several sports reporters were also set to leave the business.

Last week, HTFP reported Edinburgh Evening News deputy editor Ginny Sanderson had left her role after it was made redundant.

According to the National Union of Journalists, approximately 22 journalists will be left without jobs as a result of the changes.

In its latest gambit on the separate pay dispute, the NUJ says National World has offered staff a below-inflation pay offer of 4.5pc, backdated to 1 April 2023, and talks between the two parties hosted by conciliation service ACAS have broken down.

The union says is seeking the introduction of minimum rates “ensuring new starters and staffing moving up grades do not remain on 2019 rates that see newly-qualified senior journalists in some areas paid less than £23,000 per year”.

An NUJ group chapel spokesperson said: “The decision to ballot our members is not one that we would ever take lightly but the journalists working for National World simply cannot afford to accept this offer.

“It would mean every member taking a real-terms pay cut as part of a deal that also worsens existing pay disparities within newsrooms and fails to tackle the appalling low pay in many areas.

“The pay survey we conducted last autumn shone a light on just how much many of our members are suffering due to a crippling combination of rising costs and stagnating salaries.

“We heard about members planning to leave the company or take on additional jobs because they simply couldn’t get by on the pay they get. The financial pressures they are under have only increased since then.

“Now is the time for members to stand together and tell the company that it must do better on pay. We will no longer accept vague promises of better rewards in the future.

“We want a meaningful pay rise that helps all our members to afford to keep doing the job that they love – and that brings an end to unfair pay practices.”

The NUJ will now ask journalists to vote on whether they are willing to take industrial action in opposition to the pay package proposed.