Journalists at two Newsquest centres in the North of England have voted to ballot for industrial action over proposed job cuts and the company’s continuing pay freeze.
National Union of Journalist members at titles including The Northern Echo, the Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and the Advertiser series will take part in the ballot and have also unanimously passed motions of no confidence in Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson and Craig Dubow – the chief executive of parent company Gannett.
The move comes after the company announced earlier this month that eight jobs were under threat as a result of plans to merge the Echo’s subbing operation with that of the Darlington and Stockton Times.
And it has emerged journalists at Newsquest’s Blackburn centre, which includes the Lancashire Telegraph and Blackburn Citizen, have also voted to ballot for industrial action over the pay freeze and claims management had failed to commit to pay talks for 2011.
It is the latest in a series of disputes at Newsquest centres over its pay freeze and job cuts, which saw members at the Southern Daily Echo and Brighton’s The Argus vote for strikes, although the latest one planned at the Southampton centre was called off.
NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “Given the long-running pay freeze, Newsquest North-East’s plan to merge production their daily and weekly titles, with the loss of eight jobs is just the final straw for staff.
“The proposed redundancies spell disaster for the titles. It is a short-sighted policy that will result in lower quality and readership declining, as editorial staff are stretched ever more thinly.
“Staff are shocked at Newsquest’s preparedness to jettison so many of their most valuable assets – experienced, dedicated staff who have been responsible for the success of the titles.
“We are not prepared to stand by and allow Newsquest to press ahead with their plans for staff redundancies and, ultimately, business suicide.”
The motion of no confidence in Mr Dubow says he allowed members of staff to go 1,045 days without a pay rise, while the motion relating to Mr Davidson attacks him for accepting a pay rise himself while the pay freeze remained.
Members also said they had no confidence in David Coates, managing director of Newsquest North-East, because he was not present when the subbing changes were announced.
Meanwhile in Blackburn, chapel members said they were prepared to put plans for the industrial action ballot on hold if management agreed to lift the pay freeze and enter negotiations for a rise next year.
Mr Davidson was not available for comment at the time of publication.