Irish journalists strike in pay dispute

Irish journalists at newspaper group Reach have taken part in strike action after pay negotiations ended without an agreement.

National Union of Journalist (NUJ) members gathered in Dublin and Belfast on Wednesday in solidarity with more than 1,150 journalists at Reach newspapers and websites who walked out across the UK and Ireland.

Dublin journalists employed by the Irish Reach Plc titles were joined by supporters at a solidarity gathering at the statue of trade union leader Jim Larkin in O’Connell Street.

In Belfast, members picketed the Reach Plc premises at Rosemary Street.

NUJ members strike at Reach publications
Seamus Dooley (right), NUJ Irish secretary, with members of the National Union of Journalists and supporters on O’Connell Street (Brian Lawless/PA)

Reach titles involved include the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Record, Sunday Mail, Western Mail, Irish Star, the Bristol Post, the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, Birmingham Mail, The Journal, South Wales Evening Post and the company’s Live websites.

NUJ representatives from across the UK and Ireland unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Reach chief executive Jim Mullen at a meeting on Monday, the union said.

Reach has offered a 3% pay increase, said to be worth £750 on average, which was rejected by 79% of NUJ members in a ballot earlier this month, according to the union.

NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley said: “It is fitting that we gather at a place associated with the foundation of the Irish trade union leader.

“Larkin is remembered as someone who brought workers out on the street but also as a strong and determined negotiator.

“We have been brought to this position by the intransigence of Reach Plc’s CEO Jim Mullen.

“Larkin’s great rival William Martin Murphy, himself a newspaper publisher, would probably blush at the sheer affrontery of a man in receipt of a £4 million pay package refusing to enter into meaningful negotiations with a trade union.

“The two top executives take £7 million from the company yet claim the company cannot afford realistic pay increases for overworked and underpaid staff. It is time for Reach Plc to get real.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “We accepted the company’s invitation to talks brokered by Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation And Arbitration Service) but ultimately, the lack of willingness on the part of Reach chief executive Jim Mullen to budge an inch meant the negotiations were doomed to failure.

“This is a business with cash in the bank, a business that is happy to spend £7 million on lavish pay packages for its top two executives, a business that is about to hand over a further £4 million to shareholders.

“Yet it is also a business that believes its hard-working journalists deserve a whopping real terms pay cut and refuses to come to an agreement on pay that will ensure our members can keep themselves and their families afloat this winter.

“It’s shameful that a media company that positions itself as a voice for communities around the UK and Ireland, with many titles that claim to be an ally of working people, would choose to treat its own staff so shabbily.”