NUJ members at two Newsquest local newspaper centres are being balloted for industrial action over pay as the union claims experienced staff are leaving journalism because they can't manage on the low salaries.
The NUJ chapels at Essex County Newspapers in Colchester and Newsquest South East Essex say Newsquest has failed to negotiate adequately over pay.
The union says members are also concerned at plans by the company to impose a single pay anniversary for all editorial staff, which it claims would leave some members waiting until June 2013 before even being considered for a wage increase.
The announcement of the ballots in Essex comes as journalists at Newsquest centres around the UK are being their pay will be frozen, with reviews carried out later in the year, the NUJ says.
If no pay awards are made in 2012 it will be the third year in four that Newsquest journalists’ salaries have stood still.
The NUJ claims that while thousands of staff were forced into the second year of a pay freeze in 2009, company accounts show that the pay of Newsquest's chief executive Paul Davidson rose by 21.5% to £609,000.
Sally King, MoC of the Newsquest South Essex chapel, said: “No-one takes voting for industrial action lightly, but members feel they have been ignored for too long. It is ridiculous that staff, who are graduates with post-graduate training and years of experience, are having to take second jobs just to meet bills. This year alone at this centre, we have had two members of staff leave the profession because they felt they just couldn’t afford to work here.
“We recognise the economy is in a bad way and the company is not making the profits it has enjoyed in the past, but it is still a very profitable business, owned by one of the world’s most successful publishing companies. We believe more money could be made available to editorial staff.”
Will Lodge, FoC of the Newsquest North Essex chapel, added: “After two years of a pay freeze and a paltry two per cent rise last year, members are feeling the squeeze on their wallets. Wages are now 13 per cent below what they would be if they had matched inflation, equalling a £2,670 real-terms pay cut for someone on a £20,000 salary in 2008. This is without taking into account other factors such as increased tax contributions.
“Members are not opposed to standardising their pay dates, but are extremely concerned that people with a pay review in the second half of the year face waiting until June 2013 to be considered for a pay rise."