National Union of Journalist (NUJ) members working in Alpha Newspaper’s flagship titles have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a dispute over trade union recognition and pay.
Alpha runs the Ulster Gazette newspaper in Armagh City, as well as the Newry Democrat and County Down Outlook in Rathfriland among others.
Alpha, whose chairman is Armagh man John Taylor, is “regarded as one of the lowest paying media companies in Northern Ireland”.
Their other titles include the Coleraine Chronicle and Northern Constitution, the Antrim and Ballymena Guardian, the Tyrone Courier. Union members at all these titles, including the Ulster Gazette, voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action.
The Coleraine Chronicle and Northern Constitution voted 87.5 per cent in favour.
Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish organiser said: “Alpha is renowned for being one of the lowest paying media companies in Northern Ireland and is widely regarded as breaking up the NUJ’s sector based collective agreement for journalists in regional newspapers. The results of this are clear; more than 30 per cent of journalists employed by the company are earning just a Living Wage, in many cases despite years of service.
“Our members see the link between trade union recognition, bargaining rights and decent pay. They recognise that their current situation is a direct result of their employer smashing the previous collective agreement and they are determined to fight for a union recognition agreement and a collectively agreed incremental salary scale that is fair.
“The ballot took place following talks at the Labour Relations Agency in Northern Ireland where management refused to sign a voluntary trade recognition agreement and declined to put a formal offer to the union to address the claim for a collectively-agreed pay scale.
“The company refused to disclose information requested by the union for the purposes of collective bargaining and the NUJ is confident that Alpha Newspapers can afford the unions claim for a 14.5 per cent pay rise.
“The NUJ dramatically increased its membership in Alpha Newspapers in recent months from an initial membership level of 29 per cent of eligible members to more than 85 per cent.
“For the first time in years the NUJ has the collective strength and the determination of the members to make a difference and to fight for fairness in one of the lowest paying newspaper groups in the country.
“Their demands are simple: fairness, respect and a collective voice at work.”
This follows on from the news that journalists at the News Letter, the Derry Journal and the Morton Newspapers group, which includes the Portadown Times and Lurgan Mail have voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action in a dispute over pay, redundancy terms, staffing levels and changes to working practices.
In the Derry Journal the vote was 100 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 73 per cent. The News Letter voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 74 per cent. Morton Newspapers voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action with a turnout of 85 per cent.