Journalists at Reach consider legal action after 10% coronavirus pay cuts

Journalists at the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and hundreds of local newspapers are considering legal action against their bosses after they were forced to take indefinite pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff at Reach, the publisher that owns the titles, said their wages were docked by 10% at the start of April “without consultation or consent”, and without any reduction in the amount of work they were expected to do.

Newspaper sales and advertising revenue have plummeted across the media industry, with some other news outlets forcing staff to take pay cuts. Reach could be a test case for the legality of some of the wage reductions imposed at the height of the pandemic.

Reach employees are particularly angry because their chief executive, Jim Mullen, and chief financial officer, Simon Fuller, were paid almost £300,000 in bonuses at the end of March relating to the previous financial year. The pair were also given shares worth £1.18m, which they can access in five years as part of the company’s long-term incentive scheme.

Days after these bonuses were announced, other Reach staff were told their pay would be cut by at least 10%. The National Union of Journalists has told journalists it is looking for support for a collective grievance case uniting the company’s national titles with more than 100 regional outlets, including the Manchester Evening News.

Union officials said: “Our advice is that, on the face of it, the company is clearly in breach of contract and has opened itself up to an unlawful deduction of wages claim by cutting our pay without our consent.

See also  SRA shelves Compensation Fund cuts

“Our members have suggested various ways that the company could recompense us for the money that we have lost. But if we can’t reach agreement then ultimately the grievance will allow us to consider taking legal action on behalf of those covered by it.”

Reach has paused its dividend, pension contributions, and future bonus scheme. But staff have noted that earlier this month it told shareholders that its £20m cash reserves had increased to £33m during the crisis.

“That raises questions for us over whether our deducted wages are being used to amass a war chest to acquire weakened businesses,” union officials told staff. “We want the company and its shareholders to do well, but not at our expense.”

Other media outlets have taken a different approach to cut costs in the pandemic, with the Daily Mail asking journalists to take a pay cut in return for shares in the parent company. The Guardian has furloughed around 100 non-editorial staff but not changed terms for its journalists.

A Reach spokesperson said: “Following sector-wide declines in circulation and advertising resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, we have regrettably had to take proactive measures at all levels on pay reduction and to suspend annual bonuses for 2020 to protect jobs and to protect the Reach business for the long term. April Group revenues were down 30.5% and there continues to be uncertainty around the severity and length of the crisis.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here