Employees at Reach titles yet to be informed of expansion entailing dozens of journalists hired for American websites
The Daily Express and Daily Mirror are planning to launch online editions in the US, even though their British journalists are currently on strike over low pay.
Staff at the UK news titles have yet to be informed of the proposals to expand across the Atlantic, which have been the subject of internal discussion for some time.
Sources at the company said the project would involve hiring dozens of staff to work on a US version of the right-wing Express, with a similar number working on a US edition of the left-leaning Mirror.
Despite their differing political outlooks, both publications are owned by the publisher Reach, which declined to comment on the plans.
Jim Mullen, the chief executive of Reach, who has become the focus of staff anger over his £4m pay deal, is said to be eyeing US audiences who read the MailOnline (DailyMail to US readers) and the Sun. Those outlets have attracted substantial online audiences by taking British tabloid values over the Atlantic with a heavy focus on celebrity news.
The prospect of new staff in the US being hired to write stories for the Express and Mirror is unlikely to improve relations between British employees and their bosses.
Journalists at Reach’s UK and Ireland publications – which include the Mirror, Express, Daily Star and dozens of local newspapers – have complained of low morale and pay, with junior employees earning less than £20,000 a year even after years of training.
Despite high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis, Reach’s management is refusing to consider raising the existing pay offer beyond a 3% increase. After an initial day of strike action on Wednesday, when hundreds of journalists walked out, the National Union of Journalists has ordered its members to work to rule and not do overtime. A further three-day strike is scheduled to start on 13 September.
Offices of Reach were picketed by staff on Wednesday, including at the company’s Canary Wharf headquarters, in London, with employees from all publications standing together.
Richard Palmer, the Daily Express royal correspondent and leader of the newspaper’s union chapel, said staff needed more money. “People are struggling, particularly the younger digital journalists,” he said. “I’m aware of people who are taking second jobs to try and make ends meet.”
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He blamed senior managers, especially Mullen. “It’s all about screwing us on labour costs so they can make more money for themselves and shareholders,” Palmer added.
Express staff have received a message of solidarity from the RMT union, which is currently organising strikes on the rail network.
Palmer said this support had been noted in the Express newsroom, despite the publication’s editorials regularly warning that trade unions risked “bringing the country to its knees”.
He said: “A lot of younger people have said Mick Lynch [secretary general of the RMT] and the RMT have made them realise what unions are about. All papers have editorial lines, journalists working for the papers don’t necessarily always agree with the editorial line. In any walk of life who agrees with their employer on everything?”
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