Furious Press journalists walk out after pay docked

21 Dec 2012 @ 2.27 pm
| Opinion
The Press HQ on Walmgate. Photograph: Google

Bosses of Newsquest, the national company which owns the York Press, have demonstrated their contempt for such modern management techniques as fairness and honesty with a decision of which the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud.

Here’s how things unfolded in Walmgate yesterday.

10.00am The Newsquest York chapel of the National Union of Journalists, including staff from both the Press and sister paper the Gazette and Herald, hold a mandatory meeting, part of their ongoing industrial action against a third pay freeze in four years

10.10am Ten minutes later they finish the meeting. The managing editor of the Press Steve Hughes tells them no pay would be docked for the action and the journalists return to work

1.30pm More than three hours after returning to work, the journalists are informed by bosses that they would lose a full day’s pay, after an article about the industrial action had appeared in the trade press with the chapel’s consent (it’s called freedom of speech, newspaper owners)

1.35pm An e-mail Christmas card arrives from Newsquest Yorkshire & North East Ltd managing director David Coates thanking staff for their work during the year.

Cartoonist Steve Bell's portrayal of Newsquest and its US parent company Gannett

Naturally enough, journalists were spitting blood at this management U-turn. It took place with talks over a 2013 pay claim due to be held with management early in the New Year.

Joint NUJ fathers of chapel Tony Kelly and Mark Stead said: “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: “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.