Herald newspapers: 'I had to beg for unpaid wages'

By Huw Thomas
BBC Wales arts and media correspondent

Image caption,
Thomas Sinclair does not dispute he still owes people money

A woman owed thousands of pounds by a troubled newspaper group says she had to beg to be paid.

The former employee of the Milford Haven-based Herald group said she had endured severe financial difficulty and stress.

In March, Herald editor Thomas Sinclair promised to use £1.5m of new investment to repay other ex-staff, but closed part of the business last month.

He told BBC Wales he still intends to repay all those owed money.

The woman, who began her career in journalism with the Herald in 2016, said sporadic pay during her time at the company had caused financial difficulty and affected her mental health.

She said problems being paid by Mr Sinclair started soon after beginning her "dream" job.

"After a few months things got a little bit strained, and quite stressful for me then," said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous.

"I wasn't receiving my wages. I had to beg. I had to ask him constantly, and it turned into a form of begging for my wages.

"I didn't know when I would get my next pay cheque or how I would pay my monthly bills. In the end it caused me severe financial difficulty. I just didn't know where my next pay was coming from, or when I would have it."

Repeated promises

Email exchanges with Mr Sinclair show the woman was repeatedly promised her wages, but her claim for over £3,000 has not been paid. After leaving the company she has accrued legal expenses and employed bailiffs to attempt to reclaim the money.

Asked about how she continued to work for the Herald despite the sporadic pay, she said: "I honestly don't know how I did it. I just thought, I am doing this because I love the job... at the end it got too much for me."

She said the experience had ended her ambitions to work as a reporter.

It follows complaints from other staff in March 2019, when Mr Sinclair admitted he had been a "bad businessman" and promised to pay former staff within six months.

A search of court judgements by BBC Wales found companies associated with Mr Sinclair and the Herald had amassed debts of over £70,000.

Image caption,
Alan Evans is still waiting to be paid £6,500

At the time he said he had secured a "cash injection" of £1.5m from an Omani investor.

However, in October the group announced it was closing two of its three newspapers - the Carmarthenshire Herald and the Llanelli Herald - but new investment from a Spanish backer had ensured the print version of the Pembrokeshire Herald would continue, plus the group's news websites.

Alan Evans is now editor of Llanelli Online and Wales News Online, but he previously freelanced for the Herald group and is still owed £6,500, despite obtaining a court judgement ordering the company to pay him the money.

"We've all but given up on it," he said.

'A lot of problems'

Mr Sinclair told BBC Wales there had been "a lot of problems".

"We weren't able to get all of the investment that we wanted," he said.

He claimed they had paid "quite a large amount of the staff who were owed money", but there are a "few left that need to be sorted".

He said he was "100% confident" everyone owed money would be paid back, now the business has "more of a chance of making profit".

In 2017, Mr Sinclair's professional reputation was damaged when he was convicted of publishing information likely to identify the victim of a sex offence.