Dividends paid to shareholders of Wales’ biggest news publisher would fund 7% pay rise, journalist union says
Dividends paid to shareholders of Wales’ biggest news publisher would have funded a 7% pay increase for staff, striking journalists say.
Staff at many of Reach’s national and regional titles staged a walkout on Wednesday following a long-running dispute over pay.
Reach’s titles in Wales include the Western Mail and Daily Post newspapers, as well as their sister WalesOnline and North Wales Live websites.
Journalists are calling for a pay rise of 8.5% to help them cope with the rising cost of living but are at a stalemate with bosses who have capped their offer at 3%.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) says the £14 million paid out in half-year dividends to Reach shareholders in 2021 would have funded a 7% pay rise for staff.
A great turnout on our picket line outside the Reach offices in Cardiff. Lots of young members supporting the strike action.#FairPayNow#CyflogTegNawr#NUJReachStrike@NUJofficial pic.twitter.com/SrtWnw42em
— NUJ Cardiff Caerdydd (@NUJCardiff) August 31, 2022
Paul Breeden, treasurer of the Bristol branch of the NUJ was at the picket line and told PA: “People at Reach are just fed up to the back teeth of not being given anything even close to a decent wage.”
Mr Breeden criticised Reach chief executive Jim Mullen for his £4 million salary package, while simultaneously presiding over left-leaning titles such as the Daily Mirror.
“It shows huge hypocrisy when a business can trade on standing up for working people when it is not prepared to give decent reward to its own workers,” he said.
Employees have also complained at being asked to spend the majority of their day doing versions of stories first reported by other outlets, with little opportunity to do their own journalism.
Mr Breeden said while this was an issue, this was not the cause of the strike.
“Many feel they would rather be doing something other than what they are told to write about, but journalism is changing and perhaps not for the better,” he said.
“But whatever the rights and wrongs, Reach has built a profitable business in the digital age – we are just asking that Reach shares the prosperity that it is creating for its bosses and shareholders with the employees that are keeping the business running.”
A further three-day strike is due to take place from September 13 to 15, coinciding with the week of the TUC (Trade Union Congress) Congress in Brighton.
A Reach spokesperson said the company was “disappointed” talks with the NUJ had broken down.
“Whilst this is not the outcome we would have wished for, 2022 continues to be extremely challenging for the whole publishing sector, with reduced demand for advertising, and energy inflation driving the cost of newsprint to record levels,” they said.
“We therefore remain focused on protecting the interests of all our colleagues and stakeholders, ensuring the group has a sustainable future in the face of an uncertain economic climate.”
They added: “We continue to be open to further talks at any time to resolve this dispute and move forward.
“Reach’s decision not to accept the NUJ proposal was not based on one personal opinion but on a consistent agreement at the senior level to protect the future of the business.”
Reach has been approached for comment on the specific issues raised at the Bristol Post.
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