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NUJ seeking ‘urgent talks’ with Johnston Press over pay freeze extension


By Ishbel Macleod, PR and social media consultant

January 16, 2013 | 3 min read

The National Union of Journalists has announced that it is seeking urgent talks with Johnston Press management, following an email being sent around the company saying it would be deferring the salary review until at least July.

Chief executive Ashley Highfield said in an email to staff: “I know this will be disappointing news, after a hard year and I realise it was anticipated that salary reviews would take place as from Jan 2013, but the success of the business is paramount. Provided business performance is robust for the first six months of 2013, there will be pay reviews starting in July 2013.

“The underlying weakness of the economy continues to create challenging conditions and in keeping with other media companies, trading was very difficult in the second half of the year."

The NUJ has said that a senior reporter working for Johnston Press typically earns less than £22,000, while new entrants can earn less than £16,000.

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: “This has gone down like a lead balloon with members who have been through a lot in the past year, taking on board restructuring, re-launches and a large number of job cuts. I will be asking Ashley Highfield to slow down his plans. The NUJ does not want to be negative, but we would like to see proof that his proposals – and his dash to digital – are achieving the goals he has set. Our members will see the continued pay freeze as poor reward for the huge effort that they have made during the company's constant programme of changes.

“It is vital that he regains the confidence of his staff if he wants to keep them on board to face the challenges ahead. Taking away their pay rise to service the company’s debt will not do that. This is a real assault on journalists’ living standards.

"In addition, the stress survey carried out among staff shows that journalists’ workloads continue to increase and the job cuts, which are being carried out in an unstructured way, are leaving the company poorly placed to meet the competition threatened by the launch of Local World.”

This comes on the same day that Johnston Press announced the appointment of Stuart Birkett to oversee the running of Scotsman Publications.


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