The NUJ claims Newsquest North East has "backtracked" on its pay freeze following action by more than 50 of its members this week and has agreed to enter pay talks at Darlington, where the Northern Echo and associated weeklies are published.
The union says the company has also withdrawn its threat to dock the pay of journalists who took part in the industrial action, involving mandatory chapel meetings, which has now been called off.
NUJ northern regional organiser Chris Morley said: "The company's agreement to open official negotiations about pay in 2009 next month is welcome but it is important for management to realise that the chapel will not be short-changed in those negotiations. I also hope that by agreeing to drop its threat to withhold the pay of NUJ members in this dispute that the company is therefore serious about meeting the chapel's outstanding concerns."
Northern Echo editor Peter Barron speaking today to HoldtheFrontPage, which is partly owned by Newsquest, confirms no pay will be docked over the action as a "goodwill" gesture to staff but says the pay talks were due to open anyway as the pay freeze expires in April.
Meanwhile, allmediascotland reports that Scottish Government intervention to force a change in the way that Newsquest is reorganising its Herald group of newspapers in Glasgow has been ruled out. Scottish Enterprise Minister, Jim Mather, is reported as saying he was unable to intervene in the forced redundancies at the group’s three titles - The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times - which has seen all but a handful of staff told to re-apply - by Monday - for an estimated 40 fewer jobs.
He said: "Unfortunately, [the group's] approach is legal, although it sits very uncomfortably with Scottish values, standards and aspirations for industrial cohesion in challenging times. I am sure that, in their heart of hearts, the local management know that these drastic actions play badly in Scotland and I sense both their embarrassment and their desire to find a better way."