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Strikes begin but NUJ hopes of mass walkout dashed

A 48-hour strike by journalists at a series of Newsquest titles is starting today – but union hopes for a co-ordinated nationwide walkout appear to have been dashed.

Members of the National Union of Journalists at Brighton and Darlington are striking today, despite pay offers of 2pc made to journalists at some centres.

They will join those who began a three-day stoppage at the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton yesterday, with journalists choosing to extend their industrial action for an extra day because of a row over bonus payments paid to non-strikers last month.

But journalists at many other Newsquest titles across the UK will be working as normal today, including those in Glasgow, who decided yesterday to call off their walkout because of the relaunch of the Sunday Herald as a news magazine this weekend.

  • Journalists at the Southern Daily Echo are pictured on their picket line yesterday.
  • Other centres not taking part in the stoppage include Bradford, Bolton, Warrington, Newport, Worcester, Blackburn and York, although the latter is understood to be holding mandatory chapel meetings during the two days.

    The union is calling for management at Newsquest to get round the table for talks on pay and redundancies.

    NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Newsquest has angered our members by showing complete contempt for the alternative bargaining process.

    “Our members in the group want their union to be able to sit down with management to discuss a range of issues, including pay and redundancies.

    “We did seek the help of conciliation service ACAS but management rebuffed this approach, though they said local centres could engage in ACAS talks if they wished.

    “Now is the time for Newsquest to take action and get talks started with the NUJ.”

    Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson had not responded to requests for a comment at the time of publication.

    But a statement from Newsquest North-East, which is based in Darlington, said its newspapers would be published as normal despite the strike action by some members of the NUJ.

    It said: “At a time when all businesses and organisations are working hard to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, we have proposed some changes which may result in seven posts, from a department of some 90 people, being made redundant.

    “Consultations over these proposed changes have not yet been concluded but all efforts are being made to minimise compulsory redundancies and we therefore believe the union’s actions to be unnecessary and premature.

    “The company has offered to increase pay in the North-East editorial department by 2pc in 2011, an increase which in the current financial climate we believe to be fair and reasonable.”

    18 comments

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    • January 6, 2011 at 8:49 am
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      To many younger chapel members are now frightened to take action because of bully boy tactics by heads of departments. We know who they are!

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    • January 6, 2011 at 10:03 am
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      Lisewise too many younger journalists don’t care about the union or chapels because they’re not as interested in the job outside what is in their own notebook. It’s just another sign of the industry changing for the worse. There’s no real drive in it any longer.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 10:06 am
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      Cowards. Everyone who chickened out of this is a disgrace to the profession. You and Newsquest deserve each other

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    • January 6, 2011 at 10:37 am
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      Whether you agree with the strikes or not during this period when thousands are losing their jobs or face pay cuts, backing down from strike action is shocking. You’ve let management win and set back working conditions, pay and journalism standards. You’ve lined up against the wall and given those in charge what they want as they continue to produce something now merely masquearding as news products.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 11:10 am
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      What this report doesn’t say is that strikes have been merely suspended while further negotions take place. A strike may be called within 28 days if negotiations aren’t satisfactory. Maybe a quote from the NUJ would have helped. Anyway best of luck to all those out today.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 11:17 am
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      Kol Kurtz. I’m a branch member here in York and deeply resent being called a coward. We went out for FIVE days in 2008 and took industrial action again in 2009. The only reason we have not been able to take action so far is because of Christmas. Too many chapel members have been absent due to holidays to have worthwhile meetings, or management have not been around for negotiations to take place. Action still is a possibilty, but quite frankly the NUJ cocked up by announcing the dates for planned action – talk about shooting yourself in the foot – and calling for action so soon after the new year. Hopefully, lessons have been learned, but Newsquest management must be rubbing their hands with glee reading these comments.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm
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      Methinks that there will be more cutbacks (sorry,cost savings)at Newsquest; as now management realise that they can ride roughshod over staff that will not fight back!and cannot stand together.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm
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      I am a journalist on strike and am so so disappointed at the decision of these chapels not to take action. The NUJ has been toothless for too long and this was a real opportunity to show Newsquest that its staff across the country were together. Now those who cancelled action have left their colleagues standing alone. As for the person from the York chapel – you’re excuses are an embarrassment.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm
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      you’re excuses are an embarrassment. It’s probably a good thing you’re on strike, sicktodeath.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm
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      What this really shows is people value working over old fashioned boot stamping. The paper will still press on regardless, as has been shown. NUJ representation is ineffective, the days are gone of striking for action. We need reps who think and act commercially and collabaritvely, not with an “us and them” attitude. Its preceisely that reason I havent joined.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm
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      Apparently only 32 people voted to take industrial action in Darlington. I take my hat off to that!

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm
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      Why should I support the NUJ and its strike? My local chapel stood by and did nothing as the photographers in our group were devalued and given pay cuts. Instead the union welcomed pay rises for the remaining “Multi Media Journalists”. Its not bullied juniors, its disillusioned staff with no confidence in their union and what it offers!

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:17 pm
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      Ha ha. Good point. Well this is the reason we need good subs! But I stand by my point, even if the copy needed some editing.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm
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      Sicktodeath, but we haven’t ‘cancelled’ action, as you claim. We’ve simply not been able to take action yet because of a procedural error by the NUJ nationally! It’s not me who should be embarrassed.

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    • January 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm
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      Another great union c**k up. This has all the gravitas of the Grange Hill sixth form sit-in.

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    • January 7, 2011 at 9:24 am
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      HalfPint, I make no apology whatsoever for my remarks. Going on strike once doesn’t instantly elevate you to a position beyond reproach. Your excuse in which you blame Xmas and procedure is hilarious, if a press officer had given you similar excuses for a story you were writing you would have laughed your socks off. For once the NUJ gave you the tools to cause meaningful harm to the company by withdrawing your labour, an opportunity you rejected. To blame it on Xmas too is ridiculous, does noone in York have a mobile phone or email? Sadly it is you, me and other Newsquest employees both now and in the future who are the losers in this. Management once again are laughing, safe in the knowledge that a nominal payrise offer (2 per cent will be about £400 for me)and a bit of organisational difficulty is all they need to keep journalists in their place. A joke.

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    • January 7, 2011 at 11:34 am
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      I don’t want an apology. I’m just letting you know, I’m no coward and are as frustrated as you that it has come to this. But when you have a chapel of about 25 members, and four or five are off on holiday, including your reps, two are ill, five or six are working unsocial hours and unable to attend meetings it makes it difficult to have meaningful debates and take binding votes on very important issues. Furthermore, management were simply not around in order for negotiations to take place. I know it doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but it’s reality. As a chapel, we made it clear at the beginning of this process that early January was not a good time to take action but were seemingly ignored and someone plucked the dates of January 6 or 7 out of the ether. As a chapel, we really pushed for united action led by the NUJ nationally. We know from our strike in 2008 chapels going it alone are doomed to failure. But, I’m afraid to say, me and a few others in this chapel feel really let down by our national officers, who seemed happy to push the responsbility back on to individual chapels to make decisions instead of leading from the front. Your claim the NUJ gave us “the tools to cause meaningful harm to Newsquest” is an absolute joke. The NUJ failed to submit the required legal notice in time, so there was no prospect of us taking action on January 6 and 7, even if we’d wanted to. And, in any case, two days of action would not have caused Newsquest any harm whatsoever. A week of concerted, united action might just have made them sit up and listen, but I for one had difficulty backing a completely futile gesture that Newsquest would probably have welcomed as a way of saving on wages and served only to leave strikers so disillusioned that they would never even threaten to take action again.

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