Journalists at SMH, Age to vote on strike

·2-min read

Journalists at some of Australia's biggest newspapers are preparing to vote on whether to walk off the job over a protracted pay dispute at a crucial staff meeting.

Several hundred union members at Nine mastheads The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, WAToday and The Brisbane Times could stop work as early as Thursday.

The strike would leave newsrooms all but empty leading up to the Queen's funeral, and ahead of AFL and NRL football finals.

Journalists are pushing for a 15.5 per cent pay rise over three years and will vote on the industrial action on Tuesday afternoon.

Nine has declined to comment, but in an all-staff meeting at noon on Monday, publishing division managing director James Chessell briefed journalists on a revised two-year offer, comprising four per cent in the first year followed by 3.5 per cent.

Journalists earning more than $170,000 per year would receive a 2.5 per cent increase each year.

"It is critical to balance the interests of the broader Nine group, the considerable cost headwinds facing publishing and the interests of staff," he said in the meeting.

Prior to the latest offer from Nine, Mark Phillips from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the strike would last 48-hours unless progress was made.

"The ball is in management's court to make a better offer," he told AAP.

Other sticking points include automatic grading progression for junior reporters, minimum standards for freelancers and recognition of a charter of editorial independence.

In August, Nine announced record profits for 2021/22 with a statutory net profit of $315 million, up 71 per cent on the previous year.

Its publishing division, including mastheads The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, saw pre-tax earnings lift 53 per cent to $62 million.

The company also paid a record dividend to shareholders of 14 cents per share.

Mr Phillips said the results released a fortnight ago had hardened the resolve of MEAA union members.