NUJ claims ‘bombarding’ success at Johnston Press AGM

THE National Union of Journalists is claiming to have made life uncomfortable for the publishers of The Scotsman newspaper, after being able to secure shares that allowed it to attend the company’s annual general meeting.

At the Edinburgh meeting this morning, NUJ members are said to have “bombarded the board with questions about executive pay, staff morale and the pressures on journalists to continue to produce quality newspapers in the face of 12 per cent staff cuts over the year, a pay freeze and inadequate training on the new [editorial production] Atex system”.

Added the NUJ, in a press release: “In contrast to what is normally a brief meeting at a city centre hotel in Edinburgh, NUJ members extended the question time session to almost two hours.”

The annual general meeting was taking place on the same day as NUJ members at a Johnston Press centre in Scarborough staged an one-day strike about the the implementation of Atex – and corresponding reduction in production journalist posts. Last week, it emerged the proposed introduction of the Atex system at The Scotsman and sister titles, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, is to result in the loss of between ten and 12 production jobs.

Also today, a ballot of Johnston Press chapels in mainly the north of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands by the NUJ delivered a 70 per cent vote in favour of industrial action – group-wide – “to try to stem job losses, sharp increases in workload and stress, and newspaper quality as a result of the introduction of Atex”.

And the NUJ continued: “Cross-examined from the floor by NUJ and other shareholders over executive pay and bonuses, directors said they had not considered linking their salaries to those of average pay for staff. They said remuneration for members of the board such as the chief executive who earned £1 million in 2009 was made at what they believed was ‘market value’. The NUJ believes trainee reporters at the company take home no more than £11,000.”

Said Lawrence Shaw, the NUJ assistant organiser for the North and Midlands of England, who was present at the AGM: “We’ve had the chance here to impress on Johnston Press management that staff have had enough. What’s important now is that we carry that campaign on, because if we don’t do something to stop it, these people are going to kill off the newspapers they claim to love so much.”