Hundreds of journalists at publishing house Reach are set to strike on Friday as a wave of industrial action in the UK that has crippled parts of the economy spills over into the media.
The company’s editorial staff, which owns the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and some of the UK’s biggest regional titles including the Manchester Evening News, the Birmingham Mail and the Liverpool Echo, plans to stage a walkout as the long-standing tensions over wages and workload are boiling over. .
The strike is the first major industrial action at a major UK media group during the current cost of living crisis and comes at a difficult time for Reach officials, who are also trying to manage a sharp rise in newsprint costs and a slowdown in advertising revenue.
The severance of labor relations signals a change of fortune for the company, which last year planned to hire hundreds of reporters in response to readers’ interest in local news.
Shares of Reach rose to their highest level since 2007 last August, buoyed by hopes that the company had found a formula for a successful transition to the digital age with a burgeoning range of free-to-read brands and a consumer data collection strategy.
Since then, his prospects have deteriorated. Shares of Reach, formerly known as Trinity Mirror, have lost 72% this year. Executives warned last month that the company was facing unprecedented newsprint costs, which jumped 65% in the first half of the year, as well as falling demand from advertisers.
The National Union of Journalists demanded an 8.5% salary increase last December. Management responded with a 3% offer, which was rejected by the NUJ.
Chris Morley, national coordinator at Reach for the National Union of Journalists, said: “It’s really disappointing that the company chose not to make any improvements and left our members no other choice.” than go on strike. The company failed to acknowledge the “devastating” effects of inflation on workers, he added.
The NUJ has more than 1,100 members across Reach titles, according to the union, which said its members voted overwhelmingly for industrial action. Further actions are planned for next month.
Reach said “we greatly value our reporters and are disappointed that despite our best efforts during the negotiation process and successful agreements with [other staff unions]we couldn’t come to an agreement.
The dispute is the culmination of long-standing concerns over wages in the industry and at Reach in particular. A Daily Express reporter said there had been “several years of anger and frustration” among staff which had “climbed” in recent months as inflation rose.
While the company has recently won some high-profile editorial successes – including Daily Mirror scoops on Downing Street’s ‘partygate’ episode – the journalist added that there was widespread unease about drug addiction. regard to “clickbait” and the lack of resources for original journalism.
A £4million pay deal last year for chief executive Jim Mullen, who previously ran Ladbrokes Coral, has contributed to staff discontent, although people close to the business have pointed out that much of the award was in deferred shares and that the value of the package cited in its most recent annual report has since deteriorated significantly.
Both sides played down the prospect that print headlines might not make it to newsstands, although reporters said they expected far fewer “live” news pages than usual, with more advanced content, as well as digital information disruption.
The Daily Mirror shouldn’t be as badly affected as other Reach titles. Journalists are represented there by another union, the British Association of Journalists, which voted in favor of the company’s pay offer.