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Northcliffe the focus of national day of protest

A day of protest by union members is taking place tomorrow against Northcliffe newspapers at centres across the country.

Northcliffe has publishing centres in Aberdeen, Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, Derby, Exeter, Grimsby and Scunthorpe, Hull, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea, Taunton and Torquay, as well as many more that publish weekly newspapers.

The move, by the National Union of Journalists, is a protest against the company’s plans to make £20m of savings each year during the next two years – a move which is set to cost jobs.

Northern organiser for the NUJ, Miles Barter, said: “The leaflets we are handing out point out that the local newspaper is run by Northcliffe and that Northcliffe makes a big profit but is still making these cuts.

“The main fears we have are that these will affect the quality of the newspapers and the jobs of people who work there. We believe that with the profits the company makes, such cuts are unnecessary.”

A spokesman for Northcliffe Newspapers said that the company was aware of the day of protest but did not wish to comment further.

Bristol United Press is one centre that will be concentrated on by the union tomorrow, after changes to its weekly Observer newspaper and the departure of the Evening Post’s editor Mike Lowe and his deputy Stan Szecowka.

A memo from Bristol Evening Post father of chapel Derek Brooks to chapel members highlighted the cost-saving push and said: “Northcliffe is making these cuts despite having made £100m profit last year. It also paid massive salaries, bonuses and dividends to its directors and shareholders.”

He said that locally, the company had already lost nine journalists at the weekly Bristol Observer and transferred their work to Evening Post staff.

He also claimed the Post had not replaced three journalists who left recently, and two more had since been made redundant.

He said: “The company is the most anti-union in journalism and is refusing to negotiate with the NUJ on these cuts, which will weaken the news service we provide for readers, limit job opportunities for present and future generations of journalists, erode local democracy, and increase the workload for already hard-pressed workers.”

Action in Bristol is set to include leafleting outside the paper’s Temple Way office, leafleting the city centre and a social event for members and supporters at the end of the day.

Bristol United Press managing director Tim Kitchen said that the union was recognised at his centre.

He said: “We negotiate with them on holidays, pay and hours.

“We speak to all staff on this and if there is anything outside of that I will talk about it with them, whether they are in the NUJ or not.

“I write personally in the Talkback leaflet for staff here to update people on what the company is doing, and that includes the Aim Higher cost reduction programme.”

NUJ national organiser Barry Fitzpatrick and freelance organiser John Toner were due to visit Bristol for the protest.