Regional publisher Newsquest has defended its controversial plan to move North-East subbing jobs 270 miles away to Wales as journalists staged a one-day strike in protest at the move.
National Union of Journalists members in Darlington, York and Bradford are holding a 24-hour stoppage today over proposals to move production roles to the company’s subbing hub in Newport with the loss of up to 25 jobs.
The strike went ahead this morning despite warnings by the company on Friday that employees could be in breach of contract by taking part in the action.
NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said the strike was “solid,” but the company said that its Yorkshire and North-East titles, which include the Northern Echo, Bradford Telegraph & Argus and The Press, York, would be on sale as normal and its websites unaffected.
In his first public comment on the dispute, Newsquest Yorkshire and North-East managing director David Coates insisted that despite the subbing roles moving to Wales, all key editorial decisions will continue to be taken in the region.
He issued a statement expressing disappointment at the industrial action which he described as “counterproductive.”
It read: “Some journalists working for Newsquest North-East are taking part in industrial action today. Our newspapers will be on sale as normal and our websites will be unaffected.
“Businesses across the world are having to adapt, and embrace new technology, to remain competitive. The media industry is facing huge structural change and Newsquest North-East has responded by investing in a state-of-the-art editorial system which will make journalists’ jobs significantly easier. It will enable us to publish our content far more efficiently across multi-digital platforms and in print.
“A consequence of this necessary change is that part of the sub-editing process will be transferred to a production centre in Wales. All key editorial decisions and judgments will continue to be made in the North-East, including final output of pages to our print centres. News gathering by an unrivalled number of local reporters and photographers is completely unaffected.
“Consultations began in November and are ongoing, and the Company is disappointed that members of the National Union of Journalists have chosen to take industrial action which is considered to be disproportionate and counter-productive to the long established business which employs them.”
Mr Coates also reiterated previous commitments by the company that there will be no compulsory redundancies, but Mr Morley described this as “fiction.”
He told HTFP: “Despite intimidation and threats from management, the strikes are solid. And while it is heartening to see David Coates, Newsquest North-East managing director, making a public statement for once, sadly what he is saying is fiction.
“The reason we are on strike is to defend jobs that will be lost. People will be forced out by Newsquest’s decision to move production 250-plus miles from the North-east to Wales.
“We are taking action to defend these jobs, to defend local journalism and to defend colleagues in Wales who will be taking on a huge quantity of extra work. Journalists should be working at the heart of the communities they serve.”
The union claims that ten roles are under threat at Darlington, ten at Bradford and five at York as a result of the company’s proposals.
Strike ballots at the three centres saw NUJ members voting by 75pc or more to take part in strike action.