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Midlands journalists to hold one-day strike

National Union of Journalists members at Trinity Mirror’s newspapers in the Midlands will hold strike action next Thursday.

The move comes in the wake of announcements by the company that it plans to shut nine newspapers, merge two more and make 17 editorial positions redundant.

The decision follows a strike action postal ballot whose results were revealed on Monday.

It is not yet known exactly what form of strike action the NUJ chapels are planning to take which could affect the Birmingham Post and Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph and Midlands Weekly Media Titles.

NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley said: “Trinity Mirror need to stop finding excuses to ignore the opposition of their workforce to these drastic cuts.

“Journalists want the opportunity to save these papers but the company can see no options but slash and burn.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear added: “Let’s hope this vote for action will bring the company to the negotiating table with some positive proposals.

“Trinity Mirror has squandered the record profits of the past few years on huge bonuses for bosses and dividends for shareholders.

“Let’s see some investment in these titles and the communities they serve. The chapels in the Midlands have the full support of the national union.”

Trinity Mirror Regionals MD Georgina Harvey said: “We are obviously disappointed with this reckless and negligent decision.

“It is highly frustrating that the majority of our journalists should be held to ransom like this when only 27pc of our entire editorial workforce across the Midlands businesses voted for this action.

“We are fighting to secure the future of our businesses in the Midlands which are now running at a loss, and this will not benefit the NUJ or their members in any way whatsoever.”


stewart perkins (24/07/2009 11:11:51)
Good luck to my NUJ colleagues, who appear to be confronted by intransigent and myopic management, making their decision inevitable if they want to try to stop the carnage. They won’t, of course, stop the howls of anguish from the usual sources, who take all the benefits without incurring any of the risks.

bystander (24/07/2009 11:15:52)
This dispute is very interesting for anyone who has an interest in industrial disputes. Traditionally, strike action has been a last resort for unions, and one they only undertake with regret. In this case, it appears the strike action has been pursued with unusual zeal by the union and it is hard to work out why this is the case, because the benefits of strike action to union members are limited in this case. It won’t stop the closure of titles, or save jobs which have already been axed. It will, however, demonstrate to senior management that it is possible to get the newspapers out with even fewer staff. If the union is arguing that it is fighting to protect quality and is calling for investment, it will not achieve this by proving the papers can be produced on a skeleton staff.
Even if the papers weren’t produced, the advertising would probably be switched to another day, with bigger papers as a result to be produced by the staff when they return from strike.
The effect of a strike can only be counter-productive to the union’s desire to protect quality and jobs.
Strike action provides headlines for the union, but in these circumstances, all local members will get is a smaller salary next month.
This is one of the reasons why strikes in other sectors are so much rarer than they used to be – because of the limited effect they have on the outcome, unless it is an issue of unfair dismissal (the RMT’s general reason for a strike) or a working conditions issue, which can often be rectified by management if pushed. This doesn’t appear to be a situtation which management will rectify, because the figures say they can’t, if what has been written elsewhere is accurate.
The NUJ is often accused of being stuck in the past, and going for strike action too quickly (perhaps not surprising as it is a union made up of ex-journalists who have spent their careers chasing headlines), but this time it appeared to be trying to work with management in Birmingham by producing a list of ideas.
This seemed a breakthrough by the NUJ until it followed it up three days later with a “leak” of plans being made by Trinity Mirror for the Midlands. Such a leak would normally be treated like gold-dust by unions, and used to force a place in the discussions. Instead, the NUJ’s publication of the leak will have ensured that management have a cast-iron reason to only involve unions when legally required to. Effectively, the NUJ mis-handled the opportunity to have a real voice at the table, for the sake of publicity which has no doubt stirred up this strike action. Overall, the biggest losers now will be those who strike, which is a real shame, because it could have been handled by the union in a much more effective way.

JP (24/07/2009 11:45:15)
I cannot help but ask – is this a strike against the management of the Post & Mail titles, or an excuse to relieve pent-up anger and frustration at the hard fact we are in the middle of a recession that affects everybody, and that the growth in electronic media has cut both newspaper sales/advertising and standards of journalism across the board?
I fully understand the sheer frustration of union members, but I cannot see what this industrial action will achieve. Despite what the NUT may think of Trinity Mirror management, and indeed I have little empathy with the blonde at the top, no business will cut products that are making a profit, or have the potential to do so again in the future, the reason that businesses exist in the first place.
Should newspapers instead be subsidised by government as they are a bastion of our freedom? Maybe, but would they then be accused of bias, not wanting to probe too deeply and bite the hands that feed them?
Industrial action will not prevent the closure of titles or job losses. It did not work in 1978/9 at the height of union power, and it will not work today. It is likely to show management that they can maintain sales while filling the pages with PA copy. At best it might win a few low-grade concessions, but even if it does, it will fail to tackle the underlying causes of the problem.
There are now far too many universities offering media courses, flying in the face of the fact that there are either insufficient jobs for graduates, or many of those that are available do not pay a liveable wage for someone with a family. Maybe the NUJ on a national basis should be focusing hard on this aspect.
Also, what if anything is the union doing with regards to getting scholarship deals for redundant journalists to retrain for other professions? That could provide the basis of a truly meaningful dialogue with management in which both sides would win, and would offer much that would be constructive to several of its local members.
I feel sad that it has come to this, but the internet will not go away, and while people can set up a website for around £40 and sell their products, they will never again take newspaper advertising in the huge volumes of the past.

Credulous, trusting sort of fellow (24/07/2009 11:51:10)
Good heavens, Georgina. That quote certainly made me raise an eyebrow.
It’s quite unorthodox to speak in public about your own professional, dedicated, educated staff in such a contemptuous tone. I’m sure they’re listening to your words with great interest, and will find them highly memorable.

Observer (24/07/2009 13:41:36)
‘Reckless and negligent’. My, my Georgina. I suppose you could be talking about those above and beside you in the pecking order, as well as those ‘below’.

Hengist Pod (24/07/2009 14:45:07)
I really don’t think the use of the word “negligent” is correct here (you can tell she’s not a journalist). One definition reads “neglect and u
ndue lack of concern”. Might I be so “reckless” as to suggest that it is the Trinity Mirror management that have negelected Midland titles – particularly the ones they are closing and that rather the journalists are actually taking this action somewhat reluctantly because of their concern for the titles they work on and they way they are being managed.

Grow up losers (24/07/2009 15:20:27)
The NUJ is laughable

Bill (27/07/2009 11:58:42)
Funny how the NUJ criticises Trinity Mirror for not coming to the table to talk, but fails to answer its own critics on here. Do as I say, not as I do?