The NUJ says more than 320 journalists at National World were balloted after talks hosted by the conciliation service Acas broke down in July, and the company imposed a real-terms pay cut. Ballot results showed 78 per cent of members were in favour of strike action on a turnout of almost 76 per cent.
The National World NUJ Group Chapel met last Friday (1 September) to discuss the results and next steps. Reps voted unanimously to serve notice on the company for three days of strike action, on Monday 18 September, Friday 22 September 22 and Monday 25 September. A work to rule will start from Tuesday 19 September.
A statement issued by the group chapel said: "This ballot result is an historic moment for our members at National World, many of whom have been with the company since the days of Johnston Press and later JPIMedia. It marks the first time that a company-wide ballot over pay has been undertaken within this business under any of those owners, with our members having reluctantly accepted real-terms pay cuts or pay freezes from their current employer and previous owners for too many years.
"The result in favour of strike action sends a very clear message to the company. Our members simply cannot afford to allow the many issues with pay at National World to persist - and they know that the company's future sustainability relies on its ability to recruit and retain properly trained journalists. Paying some journalists 2019 rates, imposing real-terms pay cuts on many more and allowing existing pay disparities to worsen is not the way to protect the valued newspapers and websites that this company owns."
National World's 100-plus titles include The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post, Belfast’s News Letter, Sunderland Echo, Lancashire Post, Sheffield Star, Northampton Chronicle and The News in Portsmouth.
NUJ members at the publisher issued a vote of no confidence in executive chairman David Montgomery and the board in July. It coincided with the company's decision to place more than 50 editorial roles at risk of redundancy. A separate voluntary redundancy scheme was also opened to all staff, including those outside editorial.
The first redundancy consultation began within a fortnight of the company paying almost £1.4m to shareholders through its maiden dividend. Half-year results published at the end of July saw the publisher confirming that it has "financial flexibility and headroom for investment" as well as healthy cash reserves in the region of £22 million.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "This is a really strong ballot result, clearly showing that our members are prepared to take action to improve pay and stand up for local journalism, despite the turmoil caused by the recent swingeing redundancies. The decision to take strike action is never taken lightly and we are now calling on the company to urgently re-engage with the NUJ to meaningfully address the concerns of low pay that are unacceptable to our members and so corrosive to the business and the sector."Keep up-to-date with publishing news: sign up here for InPubWeekly, our free weekly e-newsletter.