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Journalists vote to strike at North West titles

Journalists at Newsquest-owned titles in the North West have voted  to take strike action over the company’s plans to move editorial production work to a subbing hub in South Wales.

A series of newspapers in the company’s North West division are set to be the latest to switch production to the central hub in Newport, following on from the North East and Midlands titles.

Titles affected include the Bolton News, Lancashire Telegraph, Warrington Guardian, Wirral Globe, Bury Times and Altrincham Messenger.

National Union of Journalists members in the Warrington chapel voted 93.1pc in favour of strike action and the Blackburn chapel, which also includes Bolton News journalists, by 83.1pc. Both also recorded the same figures for industrial action short of strike action.

The production hub switch has already sparked a day of strike action earlier this year when NUJ members in York, Darlington and Bradford held a stoppage over the plan.

Today’s results are the first of five NUJ Newsquest chapels balloted. Chapels in London, Brighton and Southampton have also been balloted on similar issues and on pay. The results will be published this week.

Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands Organiser, said: “NUJ members at the Newsquest centres in Blackburn and Warrington have shown from these very strong results that they are prepared to defend themselves and their colleagues by strike action if necessary. This should act as a massive wake-up call to directors.

“Our members have seen the calamitous results of the botched implementation of the new Knowledge system, the new editorial software which enables remote editing.

“This is all about the company’s greed to cut costs and has badly affected working conditions and editorial quality. Our members in the North West are ready to take a stand to prevent the same damage being wrought on their journalism.

“Even at this late hour, we call on Newsquest to take a more measured approach to achieving its aims, so that its stable of valued and respected titles are spared further damage in the eyes of the reading public. Consultation with staff has been scant, a bare minimum of what is required, and none has taken place with the community which will be the ultimate judge on the company’s plans.”

The chapels will now be meeting to discuss the timetable and form of action.

A Newsquest spokesman said: “It is extremely disappointing that the recent ballot of NUJ members in both Warrington and Blackburn has created a mandate for possible strike action, albeit that over a third of the people eligible to vote, chose not to do so, or voted against industrial action.

“Despite the assertions of the NUJ, the journalistic quality of our products is of paramount importance and will always be at the forefront of our plans. The investment in this new editorial system is testament to Newsquest’s commitment to ensuring  its printed and online products have a sustainable and strong future.

“Unfortunately, as a consequence of this investment, a restructuring of the editorial production operation will result in the loss of jobs locally, if suitable alternative positions cannot be identified.

“Strike action will serve no purpose other than to disrupt the business and we remain hopeful that this can be avoided.