Thursday, December 20, 2012

York journalists' fury as bosses U-turn on pay-docking

Maybe we tempted fate when we said last week that things had been a bit quiet recently, because today has marked a new low in Newsquest's handling of the ongoing pay dispute at The Press and the Gazette and Herald.

Members of the NUJ Newsquest York chapel held a ten-minute mandatory meeting at 10am today to take a vote on important chapel business and then returned to the office and suspended the meeting after being told by Steve Hughes, managing editor of The Press, that they would not be docked pay for today.

Journalists resumed work - and there was plenty of it, with stories being filed and pages subbed in earnest ahead of the Christmas and New Year period - and the next thing on the horizon appeared to be agreed talks with management over our 2013 pay claim early in January. We hoped this may be a step towards resolving this dispute. Until...

At 1.30pm today, three hours after the York chapel's members had returned to work and with more than half a day under their belts, chapel representatives were informed by Steve Hughes that members would, after all, be docked a full day's pay due to that morning's industrial action. The catalyst for this was apparently an article about the mandatory meeting which appeared in the trade press today, with the full consent of the chapel.

Following further discussions, NUJ members walked out of the office - the second time in less than two months a ten-minute meeting has led to a whole day's salary being stopped. What makes today even worse is that the chapel firmly considers its members to have been totally misled by management and left in a position where they worked hard for hours on end for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Ironically, the notification of the pay stoppage was announced just as an e-mail Christmas card arrived from Newsquest Yorkshire & North East Ltd managing director David Coates thanking staff for their work during the year.

Joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Mark Stead have branded the management U-turn "embarrassing" and "double-dealing", saying: "Our members took action today fully aware of the potential consequences and did so because principles mean more than money.

"What we cannot tolerate is that we are the victims of management misinformation. We were explicitly told we would not be docked pay, only for this to be U-turned on hours later.

"Members have worked for more than half a day under false pretences and essentially for free. This has left an extremely bitter taste and an atmosphere of immense distrust at a time when there was hope of progress being made in this dispute.

"We cannot accept this ridiculous and unfair treatment. We are absolutely furious and it is a huge setback in terms of reaching a solution."

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands Organiser said: "I am deeply shocked by the volte face carried out by management in which members were persuaded to suspend their industrial action and return to their desks - only to be informed hours later they would be docked pay anyway.

"This is truly outrageous behaviour by the company and potentially has seriously put back the possibility of finding a solution to this crisis as members rightly feel betrayed and provoked by their own company.

"After a year in which management has led the chapel along with promises of periodic reviews of the pay situation which resulted in a big fat zero increase yet again for members, confidence in what the company says is at an all-time low.

"By double dealing in this way, the senior managers have poured petrol on a dispute that just will not go away until they show a real commitment to tackle the growing hardship for a well-trained, experienced and award-winning team of journalists. The measly sum saved by this action of docking pay will probably pay for just a few days of the directors' annual - and ill deserved - bonus."

The union is now seeking legal advice over the issue. In the meantime, the York chapel is encouraging readers, York residents and journalists around the country to tell Steve Hughes and David Coates what they think.

Key Twitter accounts are @NUJYork, @yorkpress, @presssteveh and @echodavidcoates using the hashtag #fairyork

We'll keep you informed...

Friday, December 14, 2012

NUJ York pay battle: pre-Christmas update

Sorry it's been a bit quiet on the blog for a while, but just to bring you up to speed with the state of things regarding the NUJ Newsquest York chapel's ongoing pay dispute with Newsquest Yorkshire & North East.

Since our walk-out at the start of November, it has continued to be made abundantly clear that journalists in York will receive no pay rise for 2012. Our mandate for industrial action continues until the end of this month, and we have this week given notification to management of a pre-Christmas mandatory chapel meeting which will start at 10am on Thursday, December 20.

2012 represents the third year in the last four that a pay freeze has been imposed on York journalists. This makes for an unhappy Christmas for our members and we did not want the festive season to pass without our continuing anger and frustration being highlighted to Newsquest Yorkshire & North East as well as discussing our plans and our options for the New Year.

This dispute is not going away. We have fought for fair play and fair play in 2012 and we will do so again in 2013. Together with our NUJ colleagues at Newsquest Yorkshire & North East's other centres in Bradford - whose chapel also have a mandate for industrial action - and Darlington, we have submitted a joint pay claim for 2013 to regional management. The aim of this is to avoid the sort of divisive pay-bargaining which has been Newsquest's standard practice in the past, and we are now awaiting the company's response and the commencement art of proper negotiations.

Our pay review date is January 1 and we will keep you posted on developments, but the York chapel is prepared to keep fighting for the pay we deserve as a profitable company pleads poverty and those considerable profits go into the pockets of American shareholders at the expense of proud local newspapers and quality journalism.

We hope this dispute can be resolved quickly and amicably. But we are not prepared to endure the sort of delaying tactics and prevarication which have been the hallmark of pay talks during 2012, with no financial reward at the end of it for the talent, dedication, graft journalists in York and elsewhere display on a daily basis and the extra duties they have to take on amid shrinking staff levels and cutbacks.

More information about our industrial action on Thursday can be found at,

If you want to send good-luck messages to the York chapel ahead of Thursday, you can do so by e-mailing joint FoCs Mark Stead and Tony Kelly at and, or at our Twitter page at @NUJYork.

Once again, we want to thank everybody, both within the NUJ and outside the union, who has sent us messages of support and goodwill in recent weeks, and also for all the financial donations we have received following Newsquest's decision to dock our members who took part in industrial action on November 7 a full day's pay for a ten-minute meeting. We are extremely grateful and it has shown yet again the solidarity which exists within the NUJ and across the union movement.

And finally: we urge all Newsquest chapels who, like us, are not getting a fair deal on pay to make 2013 the year in which we ALL show our paymasters that we are not prepared to stand for this any more, through concerted pressure and, if necessary, co-ordinated industrial action. We are strong in isolation, but much stronger in unison.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

York journalists call for mass pay freeze protest

First off, thank you from the NUJ York chapel for all the messages of support from our journalist colleagues around the UK and for the donation pledges which have streamed in since our industrial action on Wednesday, when we were docked a full day's pay for taking a ten-minute mandatory chapel meeting.

Your backing and solidarity is massively appreciated and has heartened and inspired our members even more during a week which, while draining, has strengthened our commitment to fight for fair pay, together with our colleagues in Bradford and Essex who are also taking industrial action over Newsquest's refusal to reward us with the pay we deserve for the talent, imagination and commitment we show every day of our working lives.

But if we are to break Newsquest down over pay, it needs concerted action from chapels at all the company's centres. Taking industrial action can be a daunting step. But it is completely justified when your efforts and your ability are being ignored in terms of the amount which stares back at your from your monthly wage slip and the brick wall, plastered with excuses, this profitable company puts up whenever it comes to money (at least for its journalists, that is).

We can win this battle if all Newsquest chapels stand together knowing they have colleagues across the country in the corner. You don't have to suffer in silence - you can use the power of the union to force your bosses to the table and get the pay you deserve.

Remember, Newsquest's chief executive Paul Davidson was paid £598,441 in 2011, the last year for which figures are available. He and his fellow directors shared performance cash payments of £268,000. Directors were awarded a further £881,000 in the form of these mysterious and opaque "share-based payments". As for staff, the amount they received fell 7.5 per cent in 2011, with editorial staffing levels dropping by 108 jobs, or 6.8 per cent. And this is while Newsquest's parent company, Gannett, was making a £56.8 million operating profit.

The treatment we are forced to endure is unfair, insulting, dismissive and just plain wrong. We are the people who matter in this company. So stand up for your rights and join us and other chapels in fighting for those rights. There has never been a better time to show Newsquest just how much of a force to be reckoned with the NUJ really is.

* Follow the York chapel on Twitter at @NUJYork and stay tuned to this blogspot for our latest news. If you want to send messages of support or just want to know more about our fight for fair pay, e-mail Joint FoCs Mark Stead amd Tony Kelly at and

* See for more info on the York and Bradford chapels' call for Newsquest-wide action on pay.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Journalists take fresh stand over pay

MEMBERS of the NUJ Newsquest York chapel have today faced down their paymasters as their battle for fair pay continues.

Journalists at The Press and the Gazette & Herald walked out of their Walmgate office in protest this morning after being told they would be docked a full day's pay following a mandatory chapel meeting which lasted ten minutes - the length of a coffee break.

The meeting was the latest stage of the York chapel's campaign of industrial action against Newsquest Yorkshire & North East, which runs both titles and has denied its editorial staff a pay rise in 2012 - the third time in four years they have seen their salaries frozen as inflation rises, newsroom staffing levels shrink and journalists take on extra duties for no reward.

This is the same Newsquest Yorkshire & North East whose latest available accounts, for 2011, show the company made a £1.87 million pre-tax profit, saved £600,000 on pension contributions, cut editorial staff while recruiting more finance personnel and management, and also made a £44,000 "share-based payment" to unnamed recipients - but presumably including senior managers and directors - for unspecified duties, which smacks of a bonus by a company which is pleading poverty. That £44,000 is enough to pay the annual wages of two senior journalists.

At the same time, editorial staff in Darlington - whose paper, The Northern Echo, is also run by Newsquest Yorkshire & North East - were awarded a two per cent pay rise from the start of April, covering the rest of the year, but their colleagues at York and Bradford got nothing. And even the Darlington pay rise was, in the York chapel's estimation, nowhere near enough to recognise the efforts and abilities of their journalists.

Proposals by the York chapel as potential alternatives to a 2012 pay rise - including extra holidays, a reduced working fortnight while retaining current pay levels, a lump-sum payment and company shares - have all been rebuffed. This impasse led members to vote to stage mandatory chapel meetings at 10am every day this week.

Upon their return to the office after this morning's ten-minute meeting, members were informed by Steve Hughes, managing editor of The Press, that a full day's pay would be docked unless the chapel called off all industrial action planned for the rest of the week. The chapel refused and members switched off computers and left work immediately.

Joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Mark Stead said: "We believe the management response to be intolerable and utterly unjustified.

"We are in the midst of legally-balloted industrial action, so to penalise our members for a ten-minute meeting is against all concepts of fairness. Our members attended today's meeting in the full knowledge they faced losing a day's pay, once again demonstrating their commitment to our cause, but remain angry and disappointed at the continuing intransigence of Newsquest management.

"We are not asking for the moon. We are simply asking for a fair pay rise from a company which is making significant profits for its management and the shareholders of its parent company, Gannett Inc, in the United States."

We'll be updating this blog as regularly as possible with the latest on the York pay dispute over the coming weeks. You can also send ideas and messages of support to and - and follow us on Twitter at @NUJYork. And we'd be grateful if you could post the message below on your Twitter feeds:

In York & Bradford @newsquestmedia have frozen pay 3 yrs in 4, while making £2m profits. Pls tell @EchoDavidCoates your views & RT this