JOURNALISTS AT the Independent and Independent on Sunday are close to winning a deal on pay that could result in immediate rises of up to 17 percent for the lowest paid. Journalists at the London-based papers recently held a 'mandatory chapel meeting', a traditional form of strike action in the print and media industry where workers stop work to attend a union meeting.
This was the first strike on these national newspapers for 13 years. It is part of the wider revival in union organisation and action in the print and media over recent months. At the packed meeting Independent and Independent on Sunday journalists heard how their determination to resist their bosses' pay freeze had been rewarded. The papers are owned by the Ireland-based billionaire Tony O'Reilly.
The pay freeze has been broken and the workers, members of the NUJ, have won improved minimum rates of pay. The action has also achieved a pay rate for newly qualified staff, a pledge that the next pay review will be pulled forward from April to January next year, and improved conditions.
The change in the pay review date should mean that all staff will get a pay rise in January, including those who benefit from the rises the low paid will get now. The action at the papers followed a vote to strike, and comes just months after the journalists won back union recognition.
The journalists are continuing their dispute despite the gains they have made. They want the 'newly qualified rate' extended beyond those staff classed as engaged in 'written journalism' to include workers on the pictures, graphics and design desks.
The management have shifted slightly on this issue. But they want the newly qualified workers in pictures, graphics and design desks to be on a lower level.
Winning the same rate for all newly qualified workers is the key to preventing a two- tiered pay structure.
THE 13 members of Spalding NUJ chapel returned to work on Monday of this week victorious after five weeks of strike action. At Spalding we gained huge pay rises, in some cases of up to 40 percent, for the lower paid journalists in the group and our success is spreading. Our NUJ chapel gained union recognition in March.
It is the only recognised chapel in Lincolnshire and gained massive pay rises for journalists at the Lincolnshire Free Press, Spalding Guardian and at all centres throughout Welland Valley Newspapers. Sister papers in neighbouring Anglia Regional Newspapers, which includes the Lynn News, now enjoy huge salary rises after they were awarded the basic pay structure Spalding NUJ chapel had won.
We have had to face some very petty behaviour from management on our road to success. At first our managers thought they could ignore us and leave us on the pavement 'until we came to our senses'. But members proved them very wrong. Far from 'coming to our senses' we stood proud and united. We return to work far stronger than when we left for the picket line in our battle against low pay. We have won one battle but the war continues. We're more determined than ever to have our say on pay and working conditions.
We will be encouraging other journalists in Welland Valley to join the NUJ. Next time we are forced to take to the streets to fight for fair treatment we shall be far stronger!
We have received tremendous support, both in money and messages, from many NUJ branches, individuals and other unions. We thank them all. We wholeheartedly thank Jeremy Dear, Miles Barter and Barry Fitzpatrick for all the work they put into our dispute.
SUZANNE ROBERTS, mother of chapel, Spalding NUJ