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...