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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Newspaper staff on strike
Striking journalists
Journalists picket the newspaper offices
Journalists at the Belfast Telegraph newspaper have begun a 48-hour strike over pay.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at the Belfast Telegraph, the Community Telegraph and Sunday Life began the action at 0300 BST on Friday.

The stoppage will end at the same time on Sunday.

However, management say they are determined that publication will go ahead as usual.

The NUJ said nearly all the 100 editorial staff had agreed to the stoppage but the paper's editor said a third of journalists were working normally on Friday.

The industrial action comes after NUJ members rejected a 3% pay offer.

Belfast journalists say they want to move towards parity with their colleagues in Dublin.

The union said the average salary of experienced journalists was 21,500, compared to a UK average graduate starting rate of 21,000.

Management have insisted the paper will be published as usual
Management have insisted the paper will be published as usual
Des Fagan of the NUJ said the strike action followed a process of pay talks which began last October and which failed to be resolved at the Labour Relations Agency.

"I am hopeful that the management will come to realise that the only resolution to the current difficulties is to put an offer on the table which will reflect the profits of the business in Belfast," he said.

He said he hoped the offer would "go in some way to making the journalists in Northern Ireland feel that they are being treated in an equal and fair manner" compared to other titles in London and Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph editor Ed Curran, who said about 450 staff at the offices were working normally, vowed that the paper would still be published.

I think in this instance they're thinking with their hearts rather than their heads
Ed Curran
Belfast Telegraph editor

"It will be a paper as good as any we produced this week.

"It will be 36 pages, it will have its 24/7 entertainment section, it will have all the Job Finder section as usual.

"And we'll be doing the same tomorrow."

Mr Curran said it was not a universal dispute in the eyes of the journalists, with many, he said, having second thoughts about the strike.

He said he had sympathy with the journalists, but added: "It is sad to see some of my colleagues and friends outside the building.

"I think in this instance they're thinking with their hearts rather than their heads."

He said the company felt it had made a very fair offer to the journalists.

"The offer is 3%, plus about 30 of the journalists getting between 5% and 16%. I put that to the people of Northern Ireland. I think this year many of them would give their right arm for that kind of a salary deal."

The papers are part of Sir Anthony O'Reilly's Independent News and Media group.

According to the union, the Belfast division made a profit of 21m last year.

BBC NI's Shane Glynn reports
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