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Strike ballot at North-West newspapers

Union members at MEN Media are to be balloted over industrial action following the announcement of 78 editorial job cuts at the North-West company.

The three National Union of Journalists chapels, representing editorial staff at the Manchester Evening News and its 22 sister weeklies, met separately last week and all opted to move to a ballot.

The vote follows the announcement by parent company Guardian Media Group that it was looking to axe a total of 150 jobs across the north-west titles, close district offices and centralise functions.

The three chapels – Manchester Evening News, southern weeklies and northern weeklies – will vote next week for either a full strike or industrial action short of a strike.

Similar job cuts and editorial changes have also been announced in GMG’s other regional arm – Surrey and Berkshire Media.

However, a spokeswoman for the NUJ said union members there were not at the moment planning a similar ballot for action.

A spokesman for GMG Regional Media said: “We understand that staff have concerns and that these changes, especially the job losses, are unwelcome news.

“However, they are essential if we are to continue to publish newspapers and websites in the north west and the south, and if this business is to have a future.

“We will continue to talk to the union and look to work with them as constructively as possible to bring in these changes with the minimum of disruption to staff and the business.

“It’s true that GMG cannot afford to sustain a substantially loss-making regional media business while pursuing the Scott Trust’s core purpose of securing the future of the Guardian.

“But GMG Regional Media would have to make these changes whoever owned them. Given the long-term structural changes in the market and now the devastating impact of the recession, it’s become a straightforward matter of survival.”

On Friday, NUJ members at the company’s two national titles, the Guardian and Observer, agreed a resolution backing their colleagues in the local press.