23 May 2014
Posted from NUJ press release Wednesday 21 May 2014:
Newsquest NUJ newspaper chapels unite to ballot for strike action
The NUJ has notified Newsquest of co-ordinated ballots for strike action in response to redundancy threats, pay freezes and plans to transfer staff and work away from local communities.
The ballots will start next week and will cover five NUJ Newsquest chapels. Union members have decided to come together to oppose the company’s existing plans and the co-ordinated ballots show the strength of feeling amongst the staff involved. If the proposals go ahead, the company will cut staff with decades of experience and skill, risk editorial quality and create heavy workloads for those who remain. NUJ members included in the ballot have only had one pay rise in the last six years.
Nearly 150 NUJ Newsquest members will be balloted for industrial action:
The ballots include NUJ members working for Newsquest in Blackburn and on titles including the Warrington Guardian, Northwich Guardian in Cheshire, the Sale and Altringham Messenger in Stretford, the Wirral Globe in Birkenhead and the St Helens Star in Merseyside.
NUJ members in Sussex, Southampton and South London will also take part in the ballots. The titles covered include The Argus in Brighton, Southampton’s Southern Daily Echo and the South London Guardian series where proposals to close a title and shut an office have angered staff.
NUJ members want to ensure the Newsquest titles in print and online can have a sustainable and strong future. NUJ members do not want their work to move to subbing hubs in Weymouth or Newport.
One staff member who has already been moved onto the new way of working has said: “Each day, every day, problems continue to beset us that involve more and more work for less and less people – you know, the Newsquest way.” The templates used for the new system and the associated training offered are not fit for purpose. “The new staff at Newport are unfamiliar with terms such as columns, hampers, end legs, lead stories, captions – the new staff have not been properly trained and are paid peanuts.”
The NUJ does not in any way blame our colleagues in Weymouth or in Newport – where they are simply trying to cope with a system that does not work. Its failure damages the credibility, integrity and reputation of Newsquest and represents deteriorating working conditions for journalists.
On Friday 9 May, Press Gazette reported that the Swindon Advertiser was censured by the Press Complaints Commission over an inaccurate heading written at a remote subbing hub. This example serves to highlight the union’s existing concerns about changing staffing levels and ways of working – the changes already implemented have harmed the brand, company and products. The Advertiser accepted that the headline was inaccurate and offered to publish a clarification. In 2011, the subbing of the Swindon Advertiser was moved 30 miles away to Oxford.
The union is demanding the company immediately put on hold their current proposals and calls on Newsquest to meet the NUJ with a genuine desire to consult staff and consider alternative proposals.