Over 1,000 journalists in the Reach Group across Britain and Ireland, began a campaign of strike action on Wednesday 31 August following the breakdown of talks between the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Reach Group, which is often called the Mirror Group.
The strike was initially postponed because management finally offered to enter negotiations. But these negotiations have not been successful. In response, angry NUJ representatives unanimously passed a vote of No-Confidence in the Chief Executive and added strike days. Reach journalists started their strike on Wednesday, August 31, and will go out again for three days, between Tuesday 13 September and Thursday 15 September, inclusive. They will also engage in a work-to-rule from September 1 to September 13. There will be opportunities for other trade unionists to show solidarity.
The Mirror newspaper is the jewel in the crown of Reach. It trumpets itself as a pro-worker paper. One of its specialties is to expose Fatcat capitalists. Four days before the proposed strike it ran the headline: ‘Fatcat bosses get 39% pay rise in a year – and Liz Truss, soon to be enthroned as UK Prime Minister, ‘will boost it even more”.
The current salary for Reach Chief Executive Jim Mullen is £4milion (€4.74). Last year the group made £146million profit and paid out £22million to shareholders.
Thus, Liz Truss is in fact more in tune with Reach management, who are the definition of ‘Fatcat Bosses’, than with journalists at the group! They only offered these journalists a 3% rise. Management has stoutly resisted the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) claim for 8.5%. That claim was submitted at the end of last year. It has already fallen significantly behind UK inflation which is significantly above that figure now.
High ballot vote
NUJ members in the group have had enough. There was a 70% turnout on the ballot to decide on action. In that, 79% voted to strike. Eighty-eight percent voted for action short of a strike. The ballot easily beat the Tories’ authoritarian laws around ballots for strike action.
The promise of resolute action to improve pay has recruited new members into the NUJ. The NUJ membership in the group has risen to over 1,000. Thirty-four members joined over the weekend of August 19 to 22 alone.
Determined union action has forced management to the negotiating table; now determined industrial action can force to concede a decent pay rise.
On a broader basis, this dispute shows that unions grow when they do what they were set up to do – stand up for workers. In the last few years, journalists have suffered more from redundancies and pay freezes than most other groups. Victory for Reach journalists will have very positive implications for journalists across Britain and Ireland, and they deserve the full support of the trade union movement across Britain and Ireland.