Northcliffe extends pay freeze despite profit rise

NEWSPAPER owner Northcliffe has once again shown that staff are not its top priority by announcing an extended pay freeze for its journalists in the South West.

The news has just been given to staff at parts of Bristol News & Media, publisher of the Bristol Evening Post, Western Daily Press, Metro and Venue, as well as a host of weekly titles. It is not clear if all staff have been informed.

It means journalistic staff will have to wait at least until March 2011 for a review of their pay.

The NUJ negotiates pay levels for staff at the Evening Post and Western Daily Press – one of the few parts of the company to have union recognition.

One staff member said that after inflation, the tw0-year pay freeze amounted to an effective pay cut of around 10 per cent.

“We regularly hear from Northcliffe telling us how grateful they are that we are working so hard to help the company through the recession,” said one of the company’s journalists.

“But these mealy-mouthed platitudes don’t pay our bills. Northcliffe still makes substantial profits.

“It’s time the company’s gratitude was accompanied by some cash.”

The decision comes in spite of the parent company’s most recent financial results, which showed even more profit was being squeezed from the business despite falling revenue.

As reported on this website, Northcliffe’s UK operating profits jumped £8.9 million to £12.3m in the six months to April 4.

More than 30 jobs were cut by the company across the South West in April, 11 in Bristol. A major restructure further slashed job numbers at the Western Daily Press with several newsdesk jobs moved to Plymouth while sub-editing posts were moved from Plymouth to Bristol.

Across Northcliffe Media a total of 143 jobs were lost in in the period, four per cent of the workforce.

The latest letter to staff from Dawna Stickler, managing director of BNM, reads:

“Dear all,

“In the recent Staff presentations I said that I would hope to update you on the decision regarding our pay freeze as soon as I had some information. I am now in receipt of that information which is in essence, it has been decided that with current trading trends looking ominous, the salary freeze will remain in place until March 2011, at which time the plan is to remove it, dependent on economic conditions.

“Recent government announcements to introduce UK wide austerity measures are having an impact on our ability to drive revenues. These deep cuts are likely to affect a number of advertising categories in both the Public and Private sector. To rise to the challenge, we are concentrating our efforts on creating new revenues or indeed improving our revenue share from existing customers and a number of commercial initiatives are taking shape to allow us to strengthen our position as the leading local media.

“We are also continuing to manage our cost base as prudently as we can, which is vital for any business operating in such challenging times. In addition, we have reconstructed the operating model of all of our businesses to help us to ‘weather the economic storm’.

“In regard to the salary freeze, I’m afraid that it will be a little while yet before the thaw, and at this stage our plan is to remove this from March 2011. This means it will have been in place for 2 years, identical to the length of period that the Public Sector have been told their salary freeze will run for and very similar to many other organisations. I appreciate that this is disappointing I hope that everyone will understand the thinking and rationale behind the decision.”

Dawna Stickler

Managing Director

Filed Under: Branch News

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  1. Simon Chapman says:

    I’m sorry to hear that. Northcliffe’s pay freeze is an insult to the hard work and dedication of their staff. Even though advertising revenues have declined, costs have fallen further largely due to job losses, leading to increased operating profits. The least Northcliffe could do would be to raise pay to offset inflation. Yet they increase their profits while staff have to take an effective pay cut.

    They may be similar to other organisations who are using the national deficit to push through cost cutting on a scale which is greater than necessary. But that is no excuse to piggy back on the pay freeze in the Public Sector, where we face deeply damaging cuts driven as much by ideology as economic need.

  2. GEORGE HALLADAY says:

    My deepest sympathy for all my former colleagues on the Western Daily Press and Bristol Evening Post. I trust that when the group begins once again to make a “profit” that it will reward all those faithful employees who are keeping the Northcliffe empire afloat in Bristol in such stormy waters!!! Eat your heart out Lord Rothermere.

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