Daily Echo strike
The ongoing pay freeze at Newsquest will not be up for discussion in fresh talks with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Southern Daily Echo union members, according to the title's editor-in-chief.

In a statement to Journalism.co.uk, Ian Murray confirmed that management at the paper had agreed to meet with the union after NUJ members at the title called off plans for a second 48-hour strike this week.

Editorial staff at the paper went on strike for two days last week in protest against both the pay freeze that has been in place since 2008 and plans to close its staff pension scheme to future accrual, which Newsquest last week announced is to go ahead, with future pension growth ending on 31 March 2011.

But further strike action planned for last week was called off by the NUJ in a letter to Newsquest management asking for new talks.

"In response to the NUJ's request for a meeting, management wrote to the NUJ stating it was prepared to meet and listen to their views and suggestions," says Murray.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk earlier today, NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said the talks would be used to discuss the pay freeze and address the issue of staff salaries.

But in his statement Murray says these issues will not be on the table: "As a clarification, the wage freeze remains in place and is not a matter for negotiation during these talks which are scheduled to take place on Monday, November 29, nor is the closure of the final salary pension scheme.

"Management remains open to listening to other issues the members may raise, but it was the NUJ's decision to call off the strike and request a meeting and it is for them to come forward with any new points for consideration having exhausted previous avenues of discussion."

Responding to Murray's comments, the NUJ said it will not veer from the issues of the pay freeze and the pensions scheme in discussions.

In a statement emailed to Journalism.co.uk yesterday, Stewart Dunn, managing director for Newsquest Hampshire said he was pleased that industrial action planned by Echo members had been called off and that he would "look forward to a meeting".

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