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Coventry strike averted as pressure wins more staff

The Coventry Telegraph has moved to avert strike action by promising more staff, according to the National Union of Journalists.

The union chapel was due to stage industrial action tomorrow, and then an open-ended disruptive mandatory chapel meeting on Monday to coincide with the union-wide Stand Up for Journalism campaign.

But an about-turn by the company managed to persuade members to call off their planned action.

The union says staff have been given a pledge by editor Alan Kirby to immediately fill two existing vacancies as well as add a specialist business writer, district reporter and trainee reporter to the editorial strength and hire a freelance sub-editor to help ease the pressure of heavy workload on Fridays.

Neil Benson, interim business development director at Trinity Mirror Midlands, said: “The decision to increase staffing at the Coventry Telegraph was taken by the new management team after our initial review of the business.

“We believe the new editorial staffing level is at the right level to support our publishing plans.”

Northern organiser Chris Morley said: “There was anger when vacancy after vacancy at the Coventry Telegraph was left unfilled or took months to get a replacement heaping yet more work on to those left.

“Very often this persuaded others to leave and a vicious cycle developed which was damaging to the quality of the paper.

“But the dogged determination of the chapel to reverse the decline has paid off with the company investing substantially in new staff. The chapel has delivered a significant blow against cynical cost-cutting and shown the way in standing up for journalism.”

The chapel had discovered a staff telephone directory dating back to 2002 which showed seven news reporters, seven specialists, nine district staff and four trainees on the paper, which has a circulation area covering about 800,000 people.

But by October this year, numbers had shrunk to four news reporters (plus three part-time), four specialists, just three district staff and a single trainee.

NUJ members had voted three-to-one in favour of strikes and 96 per cent for action short of a strike in a ballot with a high turnout among the 40-strong chapel.