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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com - 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