Regional publisher Newsquest has warned journalists they may be in breach of contract if they take part in a one-day strike planned for tomorrow.
Members of the National Union of Journalists voted to take action in protest at plans to transfer sub-editing roles from the company’s Darlington, York and Bradford centres to a production hub in Newport, South Wales
The NUJ claims 10 jobs are at risk in Bradford, five in York and 10 in Darlington, although not all of these are full-time subbing roles.
However the company claims the strike ballot, which saw chapels voting in favour of action by 75pc or more, were invalid on the grounds that the union failed to provide the company with the correct information.
The warning came in a letter sent by managers to all editorial staff at the three centres on Friday afternoon which has been seen by HTFP.
It read: “We note with regret that the NUJ have balloted their members for industrial action in relation to the current restructure proposal and have decided to take strike action on Tuesday 18 February. We believe that the action is unnecessary and counter-productive.
“We must make you aware that the company has grave concerns as to the validity of this ballot paper.
“On review of the balloting process, the company believes the ballot is invalid due to the fact that the union has failed to provide the company with the correct notification, in that this restructure is a TUPE transfer and employees have a choice as to whether they transfer to Newport, where there are enough roles for those wishing to continue their employment with the company.
“However should the employees choose not to transfer they may opt for a payment with a settlement agreement.
“No employee will be made compulsorily redundant by Newsquest (Yorkshire and North East) Ltd as stated in the ballot paper.
It goes on: “Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt, in the event that you decide to take part in the industrial action you may not receive the statutory immunity and may be in breach of your contract of employment with us.
“The company will make a deduction from the salaries of those taking part in any industrial action.”
The union, which was also made aware of the letters on Friday, accused the company of seeking to intimidate staff.
Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley told HTFP: “We do not believe what the company is saying has merit. We see it as an attempt to intimidate the employees ahead of the action and we also see it as an indication that the company is seriously rattled.”