NUJ says accounts show hypocrisy of Newsquest directors and shine a light into truth behind pay

Tim Lezard Europe, UK,

NewsquestThe NUJ has condemned newspaper bosses who sacked 228 staff and cut wages by 3.3% while giving themselves a rise of 3.9%.

Newsquest, which is owned by the American company Gannett and publishes 200 newspapers, magazines and trade publications including the Brighton Argus, Southern Daily Echo and Glasgow Herald, last year made £60 million before tax and paid chief executive Henry Faure Walker a basic salary of £401,505.

Chris Morley, the NUJ’s Newsquest co-ordinator, said: “These accounts mask the real burning issue in Newsquest: that of pay and the fairness of pay. We have been used to seeing the obscenity of previous chief executive Paul Davidson luxuriating in a hugely inflated pay packet while his staff were left on the margins of living decently.

“In Henry Faure Walker’s first full year at the helm, we see on the surface his base pay has been slashed by a third but with a slight of hand, magically ‘performance related bonuses’ turn that around.

“This is still a very profitable company whose employees are on their knees with year after endless year without a pay rise. This has to stop in 2016 and staff must share in the one-sided gain the company is reaping from massive productivity increases coming through the grim conveyor belt of job losses. We call on Henry Faure Walker, now the company is freed of its debt burden yoke following the demerger of the US parent company, to start reviving the crushed morale of his staff with immediate pay boosts.”

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “These figures show up the thin tales of hardship spun by local Newsquest bean counters for what they really are. It is journalists and other low paid workers who have paid the price for these gains – with their jobs and with consecutive years of pay freezes.

“Meanwhile quality suffers but readers are not only expected to fill the papers with their own free content but then buy it back. It’s simply not a sustainable strategy.”

In May, Newsquest acquired 29 more titles through the acquisition of Romanes, which operates newspapers including local daily paper the Greenock Telegraph. The accounts show Newsquest paid £15.2m to buy the group.

A survey of more than 700 journalists, carried out over summer by the Press Gazette, found that journalists working for Newsquest were the least happy of those working for major regional newspaper publishers. This summer, staff in Newsquest’s titles in south London were forced to call a 12-day strike over cuts and poor pay, including some staff being paid less than the London Living Wage.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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