NUJ release

Southern Daily Echo strikes - please support

JOURNALISTS at the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton are staging a two-day walkout over wages. National Union of Journalists members will strike on Wednesday and Thursday, October 25 and 26 after management at the Newsquest-owned title stuck to a below inflation pay offer.

More than 40 of the 70-strong editorial department are expected to join the industrial action. Union representatives submitted a pay claim to management in September 2005. Negotiations began in May but broke down after bosses refused to improve their initial 2.3 per cent proposal.

Union negotiators have made up to a dozen different suggestions to break the deadlock, one of which would not have cost the company a penny more than they had already offered to pay this year, but each has been refused.

Journalists were already angry after eight editorial staff members were made redundant in June 2005. Despite promises that workloads would not increase, the company has since brought responsibility for producing four more of its free titles into the Southampton newsroom.

It has also revamped the Southern Daily Echo's Internet operation with journalists expected to provide videos to stream on to the website.

Only three members of staff have received official training but other reporters have been told to take hand-held video cameras out on stories - all without any extra pay.

The company's final salary pension scheme was closed to new members from July 1, 2005. Newsquest has also effectively taken two weeks' wages away from each member of staff by arbitrarily moving the pay date from the 15th of the month to the 26th.

Yesterday management announced, without consultation, plans to close the paper's Winchester district office because of an overlap with Newsquest's weekly title the Hampshire Chronicle, which is based in the city. Although it is not thought there will be any redundancies, two members of staff who live in the city face redeployment to offices further away from their homes.

Union spokeswoman Sally Churchward said: "The NUJ chapel at the Southern Daily Echo regrets the fact that management has forced its members into a situation where they unanimously voted in favour of strike action." She goes on:

This decision was only taken after it became clear that there was no possibility of breaking the deadlock in pay negotiations between the union and management.

That this was no snap decision is indicated by the fact that while 14 members voted in favour of strike action in the initial ballot, all 32 people who voted when the final decision was made were in favour of striking.

Furthermore, since the decision to strike was announced chapel membership has increased.

Pay "negotiations" started in spring when management made their initial below-inflation offer of £550 per person as well as continuing to make the existing loyalty payments for length of service.

The union rejected this offer and has since come up with a dozen possible ways of reaching an agreement.

Sadly, management has refused to budge from their position of offering staff an effective pay cut.

Furthermore, since July 1 management has suspended loyalty payments which, combined with the fact that "pay migration" has taken two week's pay out of people's salaries, has left some people in dire financial straits.

As always, when staff withdraw labour they appreciate it if freelances find themselves unavailable on those days. If you suffer hardship while unavailable, contact the union.

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Last modified: 25 Oct 2006 - © 2006 contributors
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