Monday, April 15, 2024

STV’s News at Six and Scotland Tonight programmes removed from schedule as journalists strike amid row over pay | UK News

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STV’s flagship news programme has been pulled from the schedule as journalists at the Scottish broadcaster strike amid a row over pay.

Members of the National Union of Journalists at STV News are taking industrial action on Thursday as they campaign for a 6% pay rise.

Staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness have walked out for 24 hours and will do the same on 16 April unless a deal can be agreed.

Those on the picket line include popular presenters John MacKay and Kelly-Ann Woodland.

The broadcaster says its pay offer – which has been accepted by other staff at the company – is “fair and financially responsible”.

STV said “contingency plans are in place” with the News at Six programme replaced on the schedule by an episode of Sean’s Scotland, a show fronted by weather presenter Sean Batty.

Current affairs programme Scotland Tonight has also been removed.

Image:
STV News staff strike in Dundee. Pic: Supplied

Journalist Chris Harvey told Sky News: “It’s really unfortunate, but we feel we have no other option having exhausted all of our negotiations with the company.

“It’s not something that we do lightly, and it’s something that’s been really hard to come to terms with, but we feel we have no option other than to withdraw our labour to really hammer home the point that we won’t accept being given below inflationary pay rises.

“We love putting out the STV News at Six every weeknight, and we know our viewers really love it too.

“It’s been a really hard decision to take this action today, to go on strike for 24 hours, but we do hope that it will make a difference and hopefully STV will come back to us with an improved offer to match what we’re asking for and end this industrial action.”

STV News staff strike in Dundee. Pic: Supplied
Image:
Pic: Supplied

The NUJ is seeking a 6% pay rise for members to “keep pace with inflation” during the cost of living crisis, and it claimed their salaries are less than equivalent roles at the BBC or ITV.

The union said STV, which is independent from ITV, offered the 6% increase for the bottom 3% of earners and claimed it cannot afford to pay more.

However, STV said a proposal that would see all staff receive a bonus was rejected by the union.

STV generated record-breaking revenues of £168m in 2023, with an operating profit of £20.1m.

The union said experienced reporters earn less than the starting salary for a teacher, which is £38,655 in Scotland, while around 80% of the newsroom earn less than a teacher with five years’ experience.

Mr Harvey said the reporters are taking action to protect journalism as something “that is worth having a career in”.

He added: “It is a very competitive industry. That unfortunately means it tends to drive down salaries.”

Mr Harvey said the STV workers had received support from colleagues across the industry and “from across all sides of the chamber” at Holyrood.

He added: “I just sincerely hope that we can get back round the table with STV soon and end this to everybody’s satisfaction.”

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Nick McGowan-Lowe, NUJ national organiser, said the STV workers are “only asking for their pay to keep track with inflation”.

He added: “Simon Pitts, STV chief executive, was paid over £900,000 from the company last year – and only a small fraction of that would settle this dispute.

“He and the STV board need to listen to members and come back to the table with a fair offer.”

A spokesperson from STV said: “We’ve continued to engage with the NUJ with the aim of finding resolution and we remain open to further dialogue, but their claim for an above inflation pay increase of 6% is unrealistic and unaffordable.

“In this current economic climate, the offer made is both fair and financially responsible and is already being paid to over 85% of our colleagues across the rest of the business, including news colleagues in the BECTU union who voted to accept the award.

“Our enhanced offer of this week, which included confirmation of a bonus for all STV employees – as we won’t agree a separate deal for NUJ members – was rejected by the NUJ.

“Contingency plans are in place.”

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