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Vote for strike action at Johnston Press titles

Journalists at a North West newspaper group have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

Members of the National Union of Journalists at the Blackpool-based Gazette and associated titles were balloted over possible strike action last month.

The move came in response to proposed changes to editorial working practices following the introduction of a new content management system by parent company Johnston Press.

The NUJ said at the time it was concerned about the company’s “failure to consult meaningfully over proposed changes” and was demanding assurances on staffing, pay, grading and status for those affected.

JP management has said the strike action vote will benefit no-one as it continues its consultation process.

In the ballot, members were asked whether they were prepared to take part in full strike action.

They voted 29 in favour and seven against from 37 ballot papers which were issued.

The chapel was also asked whether it was prepared to undergo action short of striking which could include taking all allotted breaks or only working contracted hours.

Again, 36 of the 37 ballot papers were returned with 32 choosing yes and four voting no.

Lawrence Shaw, northern area assistant organiser, told HTFP: “The chapel is meeting this afternoon to discuss the next stage of what it’s going to do. It’s a clear mandate and I’ve rarely seen one this clear.”

Darren Russell, MD of Blackpool Gazette and Herald Ltd, said: “The Blackpool NUJ Chapel has informed us of the outcome of their ballot for industrial action.

“Having noted the outcome of that ballot we will continue to discuss the impact of the new editorial content management system.

“We are committed to meaningful consultation with staff and this process has not been exhausted. Any industrial action taken by the Blackpool NUJ will not benefit anyone.”


Prionmonkey (03/03/2010 11:08:49)
Well done Blackpool. The JP management are a disgrace. They have frozen wages for two years, ruinied the pension scheme, cut staff last year in subbing to the point where people can’t cope and now want to get rid of more staff with their new computer system.
And yet the £400m debt is all their fault. Tell them to go to hell!

Miss McDoogal (03/03/2010 11:51:33)
Employees actually doing something in response to management decisions. I applaud them. When other groups (one in particular) have made major changes/cuts no one wants to do anything. The apathy of people is just frustrating.

dontyaluvit (03/03/2010 12:29:37)
Hacks across the country are finding this layout before text system is a disaster for journalism brought in ONLY to save money.
If this plaque is coming your way you will see what everyone means.
Junior managers in the industry who still care about proper writing (there are still a few) know its junk but dare not say so in they cop it from the Kremlin.
Like it or not, its the shape of things to come.
Get used to it or get out.
Sad isn’t it?

Kelly (03/03/2010 14:10:31)
Well done Blackpool for standing up and allowing yourselves to be counted among this whole, sorry, mess.
We’ve had the new content management system now for months, and we’re still staying later, doing jobs that we didn’t sign up for.
Length is now much more important to the bosses here than content, and it shows in the poor quality of the newspaper. I only wish my colleagues had protested a bit louder before these changes had been put in place.

JP Reporter (03/03/2010 15:20:31)
Fair play to them. I consider myself open-minded, open to change and willing to develop as a journalist but the Atex system is shockingly bad. Rather than being revolutionary it’s simply a cost-cutting mechanism to get rid of subs. Oh, and the readers notice the “quality of product” (copyright: managing director-speak) has dimished.

Gruesome (03/03/2010 15:42:54)
By ‘consultation’ they mean ‘how do we make this work’ rather than ‘you can stop it if you don’t like it’. Well done on standing up. It’s worth asking who is responsible for copy tasting and fact checking. They rely on copy being right first time. Also, how about careers? Anyone who wants a production role now has even fewer opportunities. They don’t really want older staff. Depressing for the future of the industry if it’s all going this way.

Anon (03/03/2010 18:05:46)
We’re annoyed, we’re depressed, we’re overworked. As a result of this, there are more spelling mistakes, dodgy headlines, dodgy pictures. Our readers are noticing too. And before management turns round and says “well you shouldn’t be making the mistakes”, I’d like to say this: “You shouldn’t be introducing cost-cutting measures which are wrecking the industry.” They have a lot to answer for. They won’t be bothered though. They’re ignorant bean counters who need sacking.

richard meredith (04/03/2010 09:19:29)
All praise to Blackpool for telling JP enough is enough. Like Milton Keynes before you, I suspect the prospects will be bleak – but every battle needs infantrymen to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in where it hurts. Let’s not forget the bigger picture ‘tho – the fact that journos up and down the country are facing arguably the most threatening times for many generations. So what to do about that? Well, let’s think outside the box a little. We are not employed to count beans. We do not produce tins of soup. Or bars of chocolate. Or to write insurance policies in Asia for that matter. We don’t do the job for the money and our newspapers (at least in part) provide a service and a platform for the public. In short, we do not fall under normal categories of corporate profit/greed – and I believe our owners’ shareholders should recognise that ( or put their money into something else). So here’s a suggestion – Ask JP and every other self-respecting newspaper publisher to set up a group of guardians to ensure that our ethos of editorial standards and independence are set out and maintained (with budgets ring-fenced perhaps)and – now here’s a thought for Messrs Tindall and Murdoch – how about setting aside revenues from selling on line content – specifically towards improving and enhancing editorial effort .. like investigations and campaigning for example. Think this might throw some enthusiasm into our daily lives? Think it might actually raise our morale? You betcha. Oh, and talking of campaigns, here is surely a place to start raising the battle cry for better editorial : Local Newspaper Week from May 10-16. Does your Editor want to raise standards? It’s surely a platform worth considering for launching a campaign that’s so close to all our hearts and jobs. It would too, show the good journos of Blackpool, Milton Keynes and no doubt many newsrooms elsewhere, that their efforts are not in vain.

Dave (04/03/2010 09:37:21)
Threaten to work to rule? I’m sure newsdesks up and down the country would be quite happy if the majority of reporting staff at least – and this includes Blackpool – actually did do some meaningful work during their shifts rather than update their Facebook statuses.
Apart from that obsevation, I concur with everything else that has been said.

outofit (04/03/2010 09:56:04)
A comment I recently made about JP was pulled on the grounds that it made a personal attack on Yorkshire MD Chris Green.
In that comment I said that Green once dismissed subs as “backroom technicians.”
Perhaps in the light of some diabolical efforts to date thanks to the equally diaboloical Atex system Green may consider retracting that remark?
No, of course he won’t. I could explain why – but it would probably be pulled!

Chaz (04/03/2010 10:37:27)
Would anyone be able to explain what this editorial CMS is? Asked a few people in our newsroom but they don’t seem to know.

Mandy (04/03/2010 16:06:36)
Chaz, ask someone from management – they’ll know. Oh, hang on, how silly of me! I forgot they don’t know anything a
bout the industry they’re devastating, so you’ll have to copy and paste this link…

Chaz (04/03/2010 16:51:07)
Thanks Mandy. I figured it was something like that.
i’m sure we’ll be seeing that soon.

Adam Threeways (04/03/2010 17:31:13)
It wouldn’t be quite so bad if JP’s indifferent IT department had implemented the system properly, fixed the persistent bugs which plague it and waste massive amounts of time, and actually gave a toss about the people who use it.
Instead they’ve made everyone use the system over a remote desktop connection, which slows it down massively. Of course it means less work for them, so they can spend more time playing or dicking about in .
It would also have been nice if journalists had been consulted on how certain aspects of the system should work. But no, what would we know?
As for the ‘training’ – two days of hurried tuition from a bunch of people who barely knew how to use it themselves and about 1.5 hours of actual hands-on time with the system is a joke.
It was sold to us as the Rolls-Royce of editorial systems. Well that may be, but it’s been specified, installed and serviced by cretins.