A STORMY meeting is expected at Central Quay in Glasgow today, when the Daily Record and Sunday Mail chapel of the National Union of Journalists get together to discuss the new afternoon editions (additions?) to their fold.
Likely up for discussion will be overtime payment rates and what impact the new editions will have on the production of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail themselves.
It’ll be a meeting held against the backdrop of massive resentment emanating from editorial circles, since the beginning of the year, when management attempted to drive through compulsory redundancies and impose a pay rise less than publishers, Trinity, had paid its London hacks.
That resentment could have a knock-on effect on the Daily Record PM titles which are expected to be launched in Glasgow and Edinburgh next week. Management has asked for support, from the Record and Mail editorial desks, in the form of overtime shifts to help get the new afternoon editions through the first few weeks of what could be a difficult birth.
Staff are ready to point out they are in need of some attention on the core titles. A number of senior staff have told me they need more Record reporters now. They are none too happy at the investment in the new editions while they need more staff and can’t even get their desks and phones cleaned because of Trinity cutbacks.
There are also concerns at staff working longer shifts and overtime which could lead to people making mistakes. Most of the journalists in the building are in the NUJ and many are unhappy at the lack of respect they feel some members of management have shown them in the last two years. There are still some contractual wrangles continuing after a pay deal was struck over six months ago, and this is bound to affect attitudes of staff.
It is obvious the situation will have to be monitored and safeguards put in place to protect the main titles and the health of staff and casuals. I have already been given those assurances by managing director, Mark Hollinshead, and it is up to the chapel to play its part in that monitoring.
For some time now, the NUJ has been calling for a stop to the cuts and a halt to the downward spiral of our industry. We have demanded investment, expansion of journalistic jobs, more local news and a marketing drive to increase circulation to stop the decline.
Whether Mark Hollinshead was listening or came up with this idea himself or with his pals in the pub, it doesn’t really matter. This initiative appears to fit the bill and is certainly a move away from the destructive round of cuts we have had to cope with in recent years.
Anyone working in the media knows that something imaginative is required; a move to expand and promote news as a selling point is a good start and I hope it proves to be the way forward.
Obviously, we will be on watch to ensure the core titles are not seriously damaged. It goes without saying that the union will be on guard on behalf of our members working longer hours. We will be demanding more investment in jobs and quality news coverage if it is successful. We welcome the 20-odd journalist jobs and more work for freelances and casuals and will argue that rival companies look at expanding their budgets in a similar fashion
If Newsquest are convinced to loosen the purse strings for Donald Martin at the Evening Times, we will be delighted.
If John McLellan is given more resources to boost the Edinburgh Evening News as a response, it will be met with a warm welcome by myself and hard-pressed staff.
There is already uncertainty in this industry, with many people depressed at the current corporate greed-approach, as publishers cut and slash to boost profits.
Without wishing to appear naive or overly optimistic, I am prepared to argue that this is a better approach than redundancies and budgetary squeezes. We all have to strongly argue that Scotland deserves a better-resourced media than it currently has.
This move is a gamble but I believe it can prove to be positive and kick-start the industry into a new direction.
Paul Holleran is the NUJ National Organiser for Scotland.