Journalists working at the Belfast Telegraph, a leading daily newspaper owned by the international news group Independent Newspapers, have voted for industrial action up to and including a full strike against a pay freeze they say is unjust.
Almost three quarters (74.6%) of the journalists voting supported the strongest possible form of industrial action at one of the flagship titles of the newspaper group owned by media magnate Tony O'Reilly who has major press holdings in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Canada.
"The vote is a resounding vote of confidence in the union and the local leadership," said the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland which is writing to the company warning that stoppages will now take place unless the company immediately ends its pay freeze.
The company refused to negotiate a pay agreement for the current year despite having just agreed to return to pay bargaining with the union under the new employment rights legislation which came in force in Northern Ireland last year.
The Belfast Telegraph is a hugely profitable company within INM (UK). Journalists at the national daily The Independent have already begun industrial action following a vote by its members to resist what they claim is an effective pay cut for 2002.
NUJ Irish Secretary Eoin Ronayne praised the determination and resilience of the journalists. "The employer continues to make profits, but does not appear to value the input of journalists in the Belfast Telegraph success story," he said.
"It is hugely ironic that having just agreed to negotiate with the union again after 15 years the company should turn around and pull down the shutters on this year's pay talks", he said.
He warned the company that "the NUJ will not stand idly by while the company treats Belfast journalists as second class employees compared to those working in Dublin".
Further information: Irish Secretary, Eoin Ronayne 00 353 (0) 87 2520603
Belfast Telegraph NUJ Maurice Neil, (w) 00 44 (0) 28 90 264000, (M) 07803759113 or (H) 02891457803