JOURNALISTS at a North-East newspaper group plan to go on strike in a wrangle over pay.

National Union of Journalists members at the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal Ltd, which publishes The Journal, Evening Chronicle, Sunday Sun and Herald and Post series, have voted to stage two 24-hour strikes that will be held on Thursday and the following Thursday, August 1.

The union said its members have had to take on additional work following recent redundancies and that they plan to picket the company's offices in the Groat Market.

Earlier action was averted when both sides agreed to go to the conciliation service Acas, but no agreement was reached.

The union, which has more than 100 members among the 170-strong editorial workforce, is asking for a four per cent increase across the board.

The company, part of the Trinity Mirror group, originally proposed a two per cent pay offer.

But it later also offered to further increase the wages of trainees and raise the minimums. The union declined both offers.

Will Mapplebeck, father of the union chapel, said: "It will surprise people to learn that some senior journalists with many years experience, and usually with university degrees, only earn around £18,000, which is considerably less than the national average wage.

"Regretfully, the members were faced with no choice but to vote for industrial action.

"We would still welcome any approach from Newcastle Chronicle and Journal management."

The company's managing director, Steve Brown, said that every effort would be made to avoid a strike but the company maintained there was no further room for manoeuvre.

He added: "It is our intention to publish as normally as possible should a strike take place."

The company also said it has invested an extra £140,000 in the salaries of editorial workers.