THE STRIKING mood sweeping journalists in local newspapers throughout Britain was set to hit the small Lincolnshire town of Spalding on Saturday. Journalists at the Spalding Guardian were to start strikes over low pay, the same issue which has sparked a spate of action in titles elsewhere (see round-up below) Trainees on the Spalding paper with university degrees are on just £9,500 a year.
Senior journalists with at least two years experience and professional qualifications earn just £12,000. Management offered to increase the graduate starting rate to £11,000 and the newly qualified senior rate to £14,000. Other staff would receive a 2.5 percent rise.
These rates still compare badly with recent settlements won by strikes. These include the victory at the Guardian-owned Greater Manchester weekly newspapers and the Bradford Telegraph. So members of the NUJ journalists' union in Spalding voted 100 percent for strike action in a ballot with an 85 percent turnout.
Spalding is the only office in the Welland Valley Newspapers Group where the NUJ has recognition. The group is owned by Johnston Press. At the other titles the pay is even worse. Yet Johnston Press has made record profits for the past two years. Two months ago it paid more than £500 million to buy Regional Independent Media. Journalists will stage two five-day strikes-from this Saturday, 1 June, through to next Wednesday, 5 June, and then from next Saturday, 8 June, to the following Wednesday, 10 June.
The strikers are appealing for solidarity and urge delegations to join their picket and rally on Saturday 1 June, at 12 noon at the Spalding Guardian office. Bring your banners.
Donations needed, payable to Spalding NUJ Chapel. Send to Bieber House, Wilsthorpe, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 4PE. E-mail messages of support to union rep Suzanne Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org
A round up of the current disputes
INDEPENDENT: Journalists at the Independent and Independent on Sunday should soon know the result of their strike ballot, after billionaire newspaper baron Tony O'Reilly provoked fury by announcing a pay freeze. If the Independent journalists strike it will be the first such action at a national paper for many years.
BOLTON: At Newsquest Bolton, which includes the Evening News paper, NUJ members have voted to ballot for industrial action over pay. The pay scheme on offer would see the news editor at the bi-weekly Bury Times earning just £13,500. The Greater Manchester weekly newspapers are starting all trainees on £13,060 following their recent victorious strike. The basic offer at Bolton is 2.5 percent.
NEWCASTLE: There is to be a ballot for industrial action at the Trinity Mirror owned Newcastle Chronicle and Journal. The NUJ union chapel (workplace branch) unanimously rejected an offer of 2 percent with a 10.75 percent rise for graduate starters, which would still leave them on only £12,250.
SUNDERLAND: At the Sunderland Echo management have offered to put their graduate starters on a rate of £13,800 with non-graduates on £12,500. But the basic offer is just 2.5 percent, and NUJ members have started balloting.
BBC: A meeting of BBC NUJ reps rejected the corporation's latest pay package. A rise of 2.8 percent is on offer, but bosses want to scrap an allowance which is worth thousands of pounds to most NUJ members.
HERTFORDSHIRE: A ballot for industrial action over pay has started at Herts and Essex Newspapers.
SCOTLAND: NUJ members across the Edinburgh-based Johnston Press, the biggest newspaper group in Scotland, have rejected a 2 percent offer and are holding a strike ballot.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT: More than 300 NUJ members in the press and public relations departments of local councils in London walked out with Unison union workmates in the marvellous one-day strike over pay and the London weighting allowance in May.