Employment

‘Without us there'd have been no Partygate scandal broken’: Mirror and Express journalists strike over pay

“It’s shameful that a media company that positions itself as an ally of working people, would choose to treat its own staff so shabbily,” said the NUJ.

Journalist and general secretary of the NUJ Michelle Stanistreet joins striking journalist outside a reach newsroom in London's Canary Wharf

Journalist and general secretary of the NUJ Michelle Stanistreet joins striking journalist outside a reach newsroom in London's Canary Wharf. Image: NUJ

Hundreds of journalists at newspapers including The Mirror, Express, and Daily Record are on strike to demand better pay. 

The industrial action is thought to be the largest strike to hit the UK newspaper industry in decades, with at least 10 picket lines outside newsrooms across the UK. 

The workers are employed by Reach PLC, one of Britain’s biggest newspaper groups that also publishes 240 regional papers including the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, Bristol Post and Birmingham Mail.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is urging Reach to improve its pay offer of “3 per cent or £750”, after members voted to reject the deal and walk out. 

Calling Reach a “highly profitable company which made £143million last year” and with cash reserves of £65m and salaries of top CEOs in the millions, the NUJ argues the publisher can afford to pay its journalists better wages. 

Reporters at Reach say they have spent months reporting on how the cost of living crisis is pushing thousands of Brits into poverty, but many are struggling to pay their own bills. Starting salaries for a junior reporters at Reach can be as low as £18,000, the Guardian reports, which is little over the national minimum wage for someone over 23, despite requiring lengthy formal training. 

 “Without the work of journalists at Reach in recent months, they’d have been no Partygate scandal broken, no agenda-leading journalism on climate change and no light in the darkness provided by our local newspapers in cities such as Liverpool recently hit by tragedy,” said one striking journalist who wished to remain anonymous.

“It is time to reflect our service in our pay packets, not just in weekly emails with empty words,” they continued.  

The planned strike action was paused last week when the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) stepped in to encourage talks between the two sides. These resulted in stalemate due to Reach CEO “Jim Mullen’s refusal to increase the consolidated pay offer” the NUJ claims. 

Reach has refuted this, with a spokesperson telling the Big Issue: “We were able to meet the majority of requirements put forward by the NUJ and proposed an accelerated career development framework that would have set out clearer salary progression for journalists, so we are disappointed that our offer was rejected.”

Regarding Mullen’s role specifically, the spokesperson added: “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 implemented “contingency plans” and articles continue to be published on the publisher’s various news sites. 

“It’s shameful that a media company that positions itself as a voice for communities around the UK and Ireland, with many titles that claim to be an ally of working people, would choose to treat its own staff so shabbily,” said Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary. 

“To know our bosses are lining their pockets with millions and paying shareholders a rise bigger than the insulting 3 per cent they’ve offered us at a time when inflation is projected to soar to 18 per cent is completely demoralising.”

The Reach spokesperson added: “We greatly value our journalists and are disappointed that, despite our best efforts during a long negotiation process and successful agreements with Unite and the BAJ, we have been unable to reach an agreement with the NUJ. 

“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… We continue to be open to further talks at any time to resolve this dispute and move forward.”

A further three days of strike action is planned to take place during the week of Trades Union Congress annual meeting in September.

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