AddThis SmartLayers

Union hits out at PA in dispute over job cuts

The Press Association has today defended itself against union claims that it has set itself up as an “electronic strikebreaker” in a dispute over job cuts in Leeds.

Journalists at Yorkshire Post Newspapers today started the first of two four-day strikes over compulsory redundancies.

Parent company Johnston Press is looking to reduce editorial staffing numbers by 18 mainly among production teams on the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post and associated weeklies.

But the National Union of Journalists’ says that the Press Association in Howden is supplying extra work to the company during the stoppage.

NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley said: “We are not surprised that PA is setting itself up to be an electronic strikebreaker while our members at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post take a principled stand for quality journalism.

“PA management are not noted for their willingness to invest in journalism, as shown by the levels of pay for their journalists.

“Any attempt by PA to fill the huge gap left by our members out on strike will be the equivalent of secondary action by Yorkshire Post Newspapers bosses.

“This shows how the laws governing strikes do nothing to promote fairness in the workplace because this activity would be unlawful for a trade union.

However the Press Association said it was simply carrying out its contract with JP and that the strike would make no difference to this.

A spokeswoman said: “The Press Association has a long-standing contract with Johnston Press to supply a range of services to most of their titles and this will continue through the strike action in Leeds.”

The strike action was initially called over the axing of three photographers but managers told the chapel there could be more compulsory job cuts after not enough volunteers came forward.

There will be two rallies at 4pm today and tomorrow outside the headquarters in Leeds city centre. A number of local celebrities have promised to visit the strikers including playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

Yorkshire Post Newspapers MD Chris Green said today: “We have done everything we can to achieve the restructure of our editorial departments through voluntary means.

“Regretfully, as no one has come forward, we have to move to a redundancy selection process if we are to achieve the required change.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that the quality and frequency of our publications will not suffer as a result of the NUJ action in Leeds.

“Most readers will not notice any difference in the content or quality of either the Yorkshire Post or Yorkshire Evening Post.”

  • Editorial staff on the picket line outside the Yorkshire Post Newspaper building in Leeds
  • Comments

    James (19/02/2009 14:29:31)
    The NUJ have once again shown themselves to be reactionary militants. If they concentrated more on hacks in this country than daft overseas campaigns maybe this strike would not have to have gone ahead in the first place. Fair play to the strikers for fighting management but to have a go at PA for simply delivering a service they always have is, at best, idiotic.

    Diana Rodd (20/02/2009 09:52:00)
    That’s a bit insulting “Most readers will not notice any difference in the content or quality of either the Yorkshire Post or Yorkshire Evening Post.”

    All Subbed Out (20/02/2009 11:53:26)
    The typical newspaper management these days loves to think that ‘readers will not notice any difference in quality’ when reducing staff time after time, because as long as some ‘content’ – any content – fills the gaps between adverts, they themselves certainly don’t notice any difference. Their concept of what actually constitutes appropriate, quality local or regional news is very hazy indeed. Unfortunately, readers – and advertisers who get a diminishing response for their money – DO notice, and are deserting even the longest-established newspapers and their websites by the day.

    observer (21/02/2009 18:41:43)
    Chris Green says he and his fellow z-list managers have “done everything we can to achieve the restructure of our editorial departments through voluntary means”. So why has he offered voluntary terms of only 2 weeks per year of service, compared with 3 weeks offered at other Johnston centres in his fiefdom? His other remarks about the quality of the papers produced during the strike vividly illustrate the contempt for his staff (and the ignorance of why people buy newspapers) that led to this dispute in the first place.

    Retired sub IOW (21/02/2009 19:14:51)
    Anyone in any doubt about MD Chris Green’s attitude to editorial quality after this latest gem (“most readers will not notice any difference…” etc), need only recall his description of sub-editors a week ago. It was OK to get rid of them, he suggested, because they performed a “back office function”, unlike his “dedicated” news gatherers. Given the state of the business, with its debt mountain of Himalayan proportions and a share price at junk level, you might think a degree of humility was called for, especially when talking about people who form part of the backbone of his newspapers.

    substantial (21/02/2009 21:42:03)
    Chris Green’s interesting comments,reported last week, about targeting staff with “a back office function”, presumably refer to the people who actually produce the paper. If he is really serious about dispensing with people who play no role in creating a good newspaper, then why doesn’t he start with himself?

    Newshound (21/02/2009 21:44:44)
    Saturday’s YEP looks dreadful and the content is grim too. As we know, these newspapers are being compiled elsewhere at the moment and it shows that outsourcing is not the answer if you want to provide a quality product to readers.

    watchman (21/02/2009 22:32:29)
    The essence of this dispute is poor management and many years of short-term profit-taking – two characteristics which are by no means restricted to the YP and YEP. The present regime in Leeds combines them in a particularly unintelligent way. Some years ago, the current MD, when pressed by the NUJ about low wages for journalists, said there was still no shortage of job applications. In other words: There’s plenty more where they came from. The real answer to the problems of the regional press is to find better managers. Surely there must be some capable people out there. Why not advertise and find out? I’m sure there would be plenty of applicants.