Mirror, Express and local journalists vote to strike in pay dispute

Journalists at the Mirror, Express and dozens of regional newspapers have voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay.

Jim Waterson www.theguardian.com 

They will stop work for four days over the next month, severely disrupting production of the newspapers and their websites. Staff turned down bosses’ offer of a 3% pay rise, arguing it is not enough to cope with the cost of living crisis.

Local outlets that will be affected include the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, and many websites operating under the “Live” banner. All are owned by publishing group Reach, whose profits boomed in the pandemic but which recently warned of tougher trading conditions.

Its chief executive, Jim Mullen, who earned £4m last year, responded to the strike ballot by saying there would be no further increase on the existing pay offer and “industrial action will not change our position”.

In an email to staff, Mullen said he knew “pay is an important issue to our people” but could not offer more than a 3% increase without risking the company’s sustainability.

One journalist who voted to strike said pay levels were driving people out of the company: “I’m consistently in my overdraft working at Reach. I love my reporting role but if we are only going to get 3% it makes me question if I will move into comms instead.”

In addition to the strikes – which will start at the end of August – there will be a two-week period of work to rule, where staff refuse to take on additional tasks.

Many local journalists may struggle to picket their workplace as Reach has closed most of its regional newspaper offices. The shift to permanent working from home means staff face having to pick up extra heating costs this winter as prices rise.

Backing for the strike was overwhelming among members of the National Union of Journalists, with 79% voting in favour. Staff have complained that the enormous pay gap between Mullen and his journalists is the sort of “fat cat” behaviour the Mirror often campaigns against.

A strike at the Express also creates the prospect of a newspaper that has recently warned about the threat of “militant unions” itself being affected by industrial action. The Mirror is likely to be less affected, as many news journalists are members of the rival British Association of Journalists union, which has accepted the pay offer.