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'Stressed' journalists in revolt over workloads

Journalists at a weekly paper in Nottinghamshire have passed a motion of no confidence in their bosses and agreed to ballot for industrial action over increased workloads.

The National Union of Journalists chapel at the Worksop Guardian claims that non-replacement of staff coupled with additional responsibilities have caused stress and placed unreasonable demands on staff.

It says that over the past 18 months the Worksop office has lost a sports editor, a news editor, two full-time reporters and a part-time reporter.

The union claims those journalists left behind have been expected to work on an extra title – the Gainsborough Standard – and to add video, audio and website reporting to their regular duties.

Assistant NUJ organiser Lawrence Shaw said: “The chapel have repeatedly written to their local management about the situation and to ask for information – but received no satisfactory response.

“Other nearby Johnston Press centres have recently advertised for extra reporting cover and there are numerous vacancies advertised by the company. Yet the Worksop chapel are continually told that there is a recruitment freeze and there are no resources available to replace staff.

“The journalists in Worksop have been completely disregarded in consultation over plans for a centralised subbing unit, and there has been no consideration of the knock-on effects this has had on staff morale, workloads or health.”

Mr Shaw also claimed that journalists in Worksop had been “completely disregarded” over plans for a centralised centralised subbing hub for publisher Johnston Press’s South Yorkshire division.

Last week, HoldtheFrontPage revealed that the proposed hub, which had been due to be located in Worksop, would now be based in Doncaster, following a consultation with staff on all titles affected.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “The situation in Worksop is clearly intolerable and is characteristic of the entire local newspaper industry.

“I applaud the decision of the Worksop chapel to stand up for journalists and journalism and pledge the full support of the union to their dispute.”

South Yorkshire Newspapers managing director Paul Bentham said: “We are disappointed that NUJ have bypassed the normal practice of initiating a formal collective grievance, prior to resorting to a ballot for industrial action.

“We have offered to meet with the NUJ this week to see if we can resolve matters in a positive and constructive manner.”


Cleland Thom (27/10/2009 12:14:25)
Poor dears. They probably need Post Traumatic Stress Counsellking after doing police calls, too.

Lawrence Shaw (27/10/2009 12:27:43)
Thanks for that valuable contribution Clel. I would have thought someone who makes a living training journalists might support the idea of making the case to retain jobs, but perhaps that has passed you by. Please carry on throwing stones from your ivory tower.

JP Grind (27/10/2009 12:35:01)
I work for JP and can honestly say the word “shambles” comes to mind when describing their management. Accountants and jumped-up ad reps were brought in to slice through newsrooms with no real concept of what say a sub or photographer does. But pennies are saved for the swish management pool cars bu chuking out long-serving hard-working lowly staff eh? It’s created manic and disorganised newspapers which will inevitably drop the readership opinion and level further.

BarryJesus (27/10/2009 12:54:01)
Pretty much every single paper in the UK is going through something similar.
There simply aren’t enough staff on any paper I know.
If the NUJ had any power there’d be a national strike against ALL the big regional newspaper owners.
But they haven’t got the balls to take on the employers properly, they’re too busy spouting left-wing hot-air and doing nothing.

Lawrence Shaw (27/10/2009 13:17:06)
Yes Barry – the NUJ is doing nothing – except organising industrial action ballots across various parts of the media industry every week – I did three alone yesterday.
I’m not sure if you are aware of the vicious anti-union rules dating back to the 1970s that make it incredibly difficult to take collective action across wider groups as you suggest, but we have the entire weight of the state apparatus against us. Even so, the union IS looking at ways of joining up action and it is something I can forsee happening.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of journalists that prefer to union bash and snipe from the sidelines which makes it a bit difficult for the union to take up a collective fight for everyone. It might be better for them to get stuck into the fight and join the only organisation fighting for there to be a media in the future.

Tom Davies (27/10/2009 14:01:30)
Indeed, Lawrence. I’ve marvelled at the amount of ignorant union-bashing cyber-warriordom I’ve encountered on the internet in the past few weeks. And Clel, you’d think a venerable trainer such as yourself would proof-read what they write before posting. “Counsellking” indeed.

Dan Meredith (27/10/2009 14:10:17)
Well said Lawrence. The NUJ is backing action right across the UK in defence of our jobs. This has been going on for some time now – how have people missed it? The cuts are also really starting to bite across the publishing industry, in some cases with magazines reduced to a skeleton staff of one or two journalists who are working until midnight in order to get the issue to print. I have today heard of plans to reduce the staff on a series of publications (including two dailies) from seven down to two journalists – yes, seven to two. These are the kinds of pressures our colleagues are facing. Surely we should support them rather than having a go.

Cleland Thom (27/10/2009 14:25:47)
Lawrence – I train journalists to be more efficient, and to cope with the pressures of the industry.
Low pay and over-work come with the territory – it’s always been like that. But we all have a choice – we don’t have to put up with it. We’re all paid what we’re worth.
If you can’t stand the heat … get an ivory tower. I can recommend them!
I was jobless in 2003 and rather than go back to low pay local journalism, I set up my own business.
I now work 12-15 hours a day, 6 days a week, without the NUJ to moan to. But it’s paid for my ivory tower, and the view is wonderful.
You should try it!

Bob (27/10/2009 14:35:28)
Spot on point. If the union’s continued “take industrial action” stance had achieved anything in the last 20 years, stress and low pay would no longer be such an issue. As it is, resorting to “let’s have a strike” doesn’t work for those at the coalface, but it makes for a quick headline for the union leaders who then use it to justify the subs from members every month. There’s no point having a union if it can’t bring about positive change, and while it might have fiddled around the edges, the big problems still remain.

Tom Davies (27/10/2009 15:42:08)
Bob, how would you resolve to tackle low pay and stress? Ask the boss nicely?

Chris Youett (27/10/2009 16:11:30)
Sorry Clem, but you are wrong about low pay & overwork being a feature on the industry. Had the IoJ ceased to exist 30 years ago, all our salaries would be £5K to £10K higher. Try adding up all the percentages the IoJ has under-cut the NUJ by over the years. If Clem studies the accounts of the Top 10 media employers he will quickly see that all of them can afford to pay all their journalists an extra £6K to £12K per year. Could the sudden resurgeance of the IoJ have anything to do with the fact that the NUJ is winning disputes every month?

Adam G (27/10/2009 16:40:14)
Sorry to hear what’s happening at the Guardian. I did two weeks work experience there when I was a student journo in 2000 and helped give me a break in newspapers. It was always overworked when i was there, but a good atmosphere. good luck to you guys. Unfortunately
its happening everywhere. The regional paper I work for has just shed 24 jobs and the ones left over have more work to do and no extra money

Christina Zaba (27/10/2009 16:45:24)
And Cleland, why have you left the NUJ just because you’ve started up your own business? Silly you, you’ve missed out. A huge number of members are self-employed or run businesses of various kinds, and there are really good deals to be had through the union on everything from computers to insurance and legal advice. Course, maybe you’re really aiming to be the kind of boss who cuts jobs and keeps people on low pay. Ivory towers are not noted after all for their inclusiveness. But is that any way to run an entire industry?

Ellie (27/10/2009 16:58:00)
Good on Worksop. I suspect they may be the first of many to take such action. Rumblings are already starting elsewhere, particularly over non-replacement of staff. It’s difficult to believe the “recruitment freeze” response when we can see posts advertised at other JP titles, and management don’t seem to be able to come up with a proper answer to our questions.
We all recognise the hard time the industry is having, but the big companies seem determined to solve that by making staff miserable and the papers of lower quality.

Rick (28/10/2009 10:33:58)
Should I have heard of this Cleland Thom?
Considering he puts in such long hours, you’d think he’d have made a name for himself by now.

Bob (28/10/2009 13:07:00)
Tom: I’m assuming they’d have asked nicely in the first place, but to everyone outside, it looks as though the NUJ has charged in shouting “strike”. It’s an approach it’s adopted for decades and the fact we still have the same problems we had 20 years ago shows it needs to find a more effective way of working with companies. There’s no point shouting about fat cats and huge bonuses because it’s water off a duck’s back to the people the NUJ think they’ll shame by shouting about it. Bigger unions in other sectors of industry understand that and they make more progress as a result. The NUJ just scares people away. The quote from Jeremy Dear is the same as every other quote he’s put out – name of place, reference to standing up for journalism. There’s no point asking everyone to stand up for journalism if nothing changes as a result of doing it. We might all feel a bit better for doing it, but the problems still remain.

B Dorsett (29/10/2009 11:54:32)
I’d like to praise the journalists at Worksop for making a stand over an issue which plagues newsrooms across the country following savage cuts to the industry.
Stress is a very serious matter which can not only have a massive impact on individuals but also on companies who could potentially face lawsuits which I can’t imagine any newspaper company can afford at the moment.
I am shocked to read some of the comments on this site, which trivialize this situation.
‘Everyone has to work harder’, ‘if you don’t like it get out of the industry’ – tell that to someone who’s getting the paper out while putting their own health at risk in ailing companies.
Those who left the newsroom some time ago need a reality check as it’s no longer a case of writing a lead a day and disappearing to the pub every day.
We wish.
As for the NUJ, without it we would be in an even worse mess with no-one to champion our cause, no-one to protect our jobs or even limit the damage when a company chooses to make severe cutbacks.
I can’t understand why anyone would be against a union at this time.