Newspaper staff face cut in pay and pensions

Mon, Sep 20, 2010, 01:00

WORKERS AT the Irish Examinerand Evening Echonewspapers have been told that their pensions could be cut by as much as 50 per cent after management revealed a €20 million deficit in the company’s defined-benefit pension fund.

At a meeting in Cork city at the weekend staff were also told by management that they will have to accept a 10 per cent pay cut as the Cork based media company faces significant financial challenges.

Over 300 workers attended a 3½-hour meeting at the Rochestown Park Hotel on Saturday in relation to the proposed cuts.

In a statement Thomas Crosbie Holdings, which publishes the newspapers, said efforts were made to avoid pay cuts for as long as possible.

“The company believes that pay cuts are now essential to protect the future of the business and employment within the business. For this reason, the company has requested the co-operation of staff in taking a 10 per cent pay cut from 1st October, 2010.”

The company said the deficit derived mainly from poor investment performance over the last number of years and not mismanagement.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has over 120 members at the Irish Examinerand Evening Echo,  Unite in the region of 100 and a small number of staff are represented by Siptu .

In a statement the NUJ said it planned to gather the views of its members before embarking on formal talks with the company.

“We’re conscious of the very tough climate for our own and other newspapers, and the huge numbers of people out of work.

“But journalists in the Echoand Examinerare angry at being asked to make further sacrifices – barely six months after agreeing significant reductions in our earnings, and in good faith that salaries would not be cut this year.”

The statement added that members are fearful of little or no return from pensions they have been paying into for as long as 40 years in some cases. Staff are concerned about a fall in incomes that already compares badly to those in other weekly regional newspapers.

Management are due to meet with unions on Wednesday. There is a pay freeze for staff at the Irish Examinerand Evening Echowhile the company has been on “a pension holiday” since earlier this year. Expenses have also been cut back.

This is the second round of pay negotiations to be proposed in less than two years. In February 2009, staff were given a pay freeze and offered a series of voluntary alternative working structures.