A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a strike vote at Northern Ireland’s . Journalists at the Tyrone-based Alpha Newspapers decided to take industrial action over low pay and trade union recognition.
But with the strike due to start on Thursday (21 April) it appears that the company’s chairman, Lord Kilclooney, is claiming to be unaware of the situation.
, when it contacted Kilclooney (the former Unionist politician, John Taylor) he said: “Oh, I know nothing about it.”
The paper’s reporter offered to give him the facts but he replied: “You needn’t bother.” Then the reporter attempted to gauge his reaction to claims by the about pay at Alpha’s papers.
The union had compared journalists’ lowly wages - some senior staff earn £15,000 - with Taylor’s wealth. In 2010, he was listed as being among Ireland’s richest people with a fortune worth €49m (£38.6m). “However,” said the article, “the line went dead.”
Taylor, a former Ulster Unionist MP who is now a cross-bench peer, has been Alpha’s chairman since 1974.
An NUJ statement said: “It is inconceivable that an employer can be left unchallenged when it pays wages from the last century.
“This strike is to ensure that once again journalists in these newspapers have a union agreement that delivers fairness in pay, fairness in working hours and fairness in all aspects of their working life.”
The four-day strike will start on Thursday (21 April). It involves journalists on the Antrim Guardian, Ballymena Guardian, Coleraine Chronicle, Ballymoney Chronicle, County Down Outlook, Northern Constitution, Newry Democrat, Tyrone Courier and Ulster Gazette (NB: the Ballymena Guardian staff will strike only on Thursday).
According to ballot results, members at two papers - the Coleraine Chronicle and Northern Constitution - voted 87.5% in favour of a strike while members at the other titles voted 100% in favour.
The ballot was held after Alpha refused to sign a trade recognition agreement. The company also refused to disclose information requested by the union for the purposes of collective bargaining.