New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Hold the Front Page

by New Worker correspondent

Journalists belonging to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at National World, which publishes the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, the Belfast Newsletter and over 100 regional and local newspapers, including the mighty Falkirk Herald where it all began in 1845, have voted to strike for decent pay.

After talks at conciliation service ACAS broke down in July, National World imposed a below-inflation rise of 4.5 per cent on journalists. More than 320 journalists subsequently balloted for strike action on a 76 per cent turnout.

As a result, three days of strike action will take place on Monday 18th September, Friday 22nd September and Monday 25th September, along with a work to rule that starts on Tuesday 19th September.

The company’s NUJ chapel declared that: “This ballot result is an historic moment for our members at National World, many of whom have been with the company since the days of Johnston Press and later JPI Media. It marks the first time that a company-wide ballot over pay has been undertaken within this business under any of those owners … Our members simply cannot afford to allow the many issues with pay at National World to persist. … Paying some journalists 2019 rates, imposing real-terms pay cuts on many more and allowing existing pay disparities to worsen is not the way to protect the valued newspapers and websites that this company owns.”

NUJ members passed a vote of no confidence in executive chairman David Montgomery in July, when the company put over 50 editorial roles at risk of redundancy. Another voluntary redundancy scheme was also opened to all staff.

The redundancy consultation started just after National World paid almost £1.4 million in dividends, so financial necessity was hardly the reason. Half-yearly results published in July saw them boast of “financial flexibility and headroom for investment” with cash reserves of £22 million.

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “This is a really strong ballot result, clearly showing that our members are prepared to take action to improve pay and stand up for local journalism, despite the turmoil caused by the recent swingeing redundancies. The decision to take strike action is never taken lightly and we are now calling on the company to urgently re-engage with the NUJ to meaningfully address the concerns of low pay.”

The NUJ is also demanding minimum rates, as some journalists remain on 2019 rates resulting in newly-qualified senior reporters being paid less than £23,000 per year.

This is the latest in a series of strikes by journalists. Strikes have taken place at Mirror and Express publisher Reach, when journalists rejected a three per cent pay offer, and at BBC England, where staff are opposing cuts to local radio. Last Summer, National World journalists in Scotland had voted to strike to oppose compulsory redundancies but this was later called off.