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News boss urges union to withdraw strike threat

The managing director of Newsquest (Herald & Times) has called on the National Union of Journalists to “see sense” and withdraw its threat of strike action, after members there announced they would ballot over job cuts at the group’s titles.

Tim Blott told HoldtheFrontPage that the dispute at The Herald, Evening Times and Sunday Herald in Glasgow had now narrowed to four compulsory redundancies out of 300 editorial staff.

He spoke out as ballot papers were due be sent out to just under 300 NUJ members, after the union claimed the company has gone back on an agreement to avoid compulsory redundancies.

The current dispute centres around six sub-editors at the Evening Times who were selected for redundancy – two of whom have now left.

The union says the redundancies are unnecessary and “entirely preventable” and, in a motion passed at a chapel meeting on Thursday, claimed were as a result of Evening Times editor Donald Martin blocking voluntary transfers of staff to other titles.

The motion read: “The NUJ chapels at (Newsquest) Herald and Times condemn the attempts by Donald Martin to force staff into industrial action by pursuing entirely unnecessary compulsory redundancies at the Evening Times.

“The chapels further condemn his decision to block voluntary transfers of staff to other titles, which would allow staff to develop and would retain their skills within the company.

“Donald Martin’s actions are contrary to the best interests of the Evening Times and the entire (Newsquest) Herald and Times group.

“The chapels call on managing director Tim Blott to insist that his editors work together with staff and the NUJ to ensure that entirely preventable compulsory redundancies, and likely subsequent industrial action, are avoided in the best interests of the company.”

Tim said: “The fact is that since we acquired the company from Scottish Media Group four years ago Newsquest have invested £10m in the business and are investing £3m this year alone.

“We are a successful and forward-looking publishing company which recognises and responds rapidly to significant changes in the increasingly-competitive multi-media market place.

“We have the number one Scottish brands both in print and online and will continue to develop them while employing the best quality journalists in numbers far exceeding our rivals.

“At the same time we recognise that while we invest and traditional advertising revenues come under pressure we must be efficient to profitably sustain our business for the future.

“Our current dispute has now narrowed down to four compulsory redundancies out of a total editorial staff of 300. I would hope that the NUJ would see sense and withdraw its threat of strike action.”

NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: “(Tim Blott) knows our position. We were assured there would be no further redundancies until after September and he has reneged on that.”