Journalists at Scottish newspaper titles are taking strike action in a dispute over pay.
Members of the NUJ working for publisher Reach – which owns titles including the Daily Record, Sunday Mail, and the Scottish Daily Express – will walk out on Wednesday, August 31.
It is expected to involve more than 1,100 journalists in what has been billed as the “most significant industrial action held at a newspaper group in decades”, by union leaders.
A picket line and demonstration will be held from 9.30am outside the Daily Record building in Glasgow.
The action will also affect titles including the Scottish Daily Star, the Paisley Daily Express, the Stirling Observer, the Perthshire Advertiser, and around a dozen other local newspapers as well as the company’s online live websites.
Across the UK, the publisher also has the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, the Manchester Evening News, the Liverpool Echo, and several other titles among its portfolio.
An initial day of strike action had been due to take place on Friday, August 26, however it was postponed after Reach management agreed to last-minute talks aimed at settling the dispute.
Talks brokered by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) held in London on Sunday and Monday ended with no deal being agreed.
A motion of no confidence in Reach chief executive Jim Mullen was passed by the NUJ’s Reach Group Chapel.
Further strike action is planned between September 13 and September 15, with journalists also working to rule between September 1 and September 12, as well as from September 16 onwards.
It means that they will perform the duties of their jobs strictly to the letter of their employment contracts.
NUJ members rejected an offer of a 3% pay increase with a minimum of £750.
The NUJ Daily Record/Sunday Mail chapel called for the company’s management to “get round the table” and negotiate and acceptable resolution to the dispute.
“We have been left with no option but to take industrial action in the face of management’s refusal to improve on a pay offer of 3%, which is worth less than a third of the current inflation rate,” it said.
“Reach plc is a highly profitable company which made £143m last year, handed its two most senior executives a combined pay package of more than £7m, amassed a cash reserve of around £65m and is now paying its shareholders dividends of £14m.
“Reach titles have reported on industrial disputes around the country, rightly urging employers to offer workers a fair deal in the face of the cost of living crisis.
“All we ask is that our management practise what they preach and get round the table and negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution to this dispute.”
Nick McGowan-Lowe, NUJ organiser for Scotland, insisted it is time for Reach to make a “meaningful offer” to staff.
“During the pandemic our members made sure that their newspapers got out day after day, produced on the back of journalists working far beyond their hours, working from kitchen tables and bedrooms,” he said.
“For all this effort they have been told there is no money for a fair pay increase in line with inflation – while at the same time two top executives got pay increases of over 600%, and millions has been given to shareholders. “
“It’s time for the company to make a meaningful pay offer which recognises the profits they take come from the skills and talent of their writers, photographers, designers and other journalists.”
A spokesperson for Reach said the company is “open to further talks” to resolve the dispute.
“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,” they said.
“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 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.
“We continue to be open to further talks at any time to resolve this dispute and move forward.”