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STV ‘disappointed’ as journalists vote 89 per cent in favour of strike action

Journalists at STV are set to go on strike after members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action at the Scottish broadcaster.

The vote came after last-minute talks at ACAS resulted in management refusing to improve its offer to resolve a pay dispute.

STV News could face a summer of disruption to its flagship news programming as journalists are expected to walk out of newsrooms and onto picket lines. NUJ members at the broadcaster will be meeting on Tuesday to discuss the form and timescale of industrial action.

Nick McGowan-Lowe, the NUJ’s national organiser for Scotland said: “This is an overwhelming result which should make the STV board wake up and listen to its staff. Our members are dedicated and talented professionals who have made STV Scotland’s most-watched peak-time TV channel for the fifth consecutive year – but they have had enough of being told they should accept below inflation pay rises at a time when the company boasts of record revenues.

“This situation is quickly resolvable as soon as the company comes back to the table with a fair offer, but the longer they refuse to do so, the angrier advertisers and audiences will get as their favourite programmes are affected.”

Last week STV, which holds the Channel 3 licence for Scotland and is the only Channel 3 broadcaster nationally which is independent of ITV, announced it made record-breaking revenues of £168.4m as its studios division smashed its profit targets. Despite a difficult advertising market, it still recorded an adjusted operating profit of £20.1m, in line with expectations.

The company has told its staff it cannot afford the six per cent pay rise the NUJ has demanded, although the union says it has paid the same dividend to shareholders in 2023 as it did in 2022.

An STV spokesperson told Prolific North: “We’re disappointed by the outcome of this vote by NUJ members. Virtually all business sectors are facing sustained economic challenges. This is the most difficult and prolonged advertising downturn that the commercial media sector has faced and STV is not immune from it. In this climate, the offer made to NUJ members is both fair and financially responsible.

We have a track record of looking after our people and supporting their financial wellbeing. In addition to salary awards at or in excess of inflation over recent years, with the exception of during Covid, we have made a number of additional cost of living and bonus payments to colleagues over the past two years when many other companies have not.

The NUJ is demanding a 6% pay increase, which is significantly ahead of both current and projected inflation levels. STV’s pay award will increase salaries by at least inflation for over half of STV’s news colleagues, with only higher earners falling below that level – a differentiated approach explicitly endorsed by the NUJ in late 2023. This offer has been accepted by broadcasting union, BECTU, and is already in place across the rest of our business.

In addition, we have indicated a willingness to consider introducing a material bonus opportunity for colleagues in 2024 in the event that market conditions improve and we would urge the NUJ to engage with us on this offer.

Contingency plans are in place should the NUJ decide to go ahead with their strike.”

Addressing STV’s recent investments, the broadcaster added: “Each of our recent investments in TV production companies have been immediately profit-enhancing for STV and are designed to help the company withstand the impact of declines in traditional TV advertising. It is this sort of investment that creates the financial stability required to keep investing £8m in STV News each year, by far STV’s largest regional content commitment.”

The strike action could impact this summer’s Euros, as well as May’s local, and possibly national, elections.

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