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.