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Newsquest defends subbing hub move as journalists strike

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.

Striking NUJ members pictured outside the offices of The Press, York, this morning.

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.

The picket line in Bradford as journalists go on strike. The 'bouquet' of leeks, representing the ten roles due to relocate to Wales, was later presented to Newsquest bosses.

20 comments

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  • February 18, 2014 at 9:40 am
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    Odd that in the multi-platform digital age you have to be physically in Wales to make it work. That would suggest there’s little high-tech about it. We all know what this really is – a surrogate sacking of loyal staff so they can employ new people on the cheap elsewhere. It’s got absolutely nothing at all to do with company efficiency. Sadly the people at the top, most of whom made their way up through the company, will be profiting from this betrayal of their colleagues.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 10:03 am
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    Newquest can’t defend the indefensible. Full stop. And the memo sent out to Bradford staff was an appalling example of bullying tactics. Shameful.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 10:09 am
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    “Unrivalled” number of reporters and photographers? Maybe, but not in the way Newsquest mean.
    Nobody ever questioned where decisions about stories will be made. The issue is the production of them, which will be shambolic.
    Calls for collective consultation and meaningful dialogue with Newsquest, rather than HR box-ticking exercises, have been ignored. As for the jobs total, does Newsquest know its own – dwindling – workforce?
    And for “some journalists”, read about 80.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 10:16 am
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    That’ll be David Coates who is based in Darlington – and under no threat of having to uproot his family to Wales.
    There is no mention in his comment of those being uprooted. And he implies that it is good of Newsquest to employ these journalists – as if it is some form of charity. It is the efforts of these journalists who are earning Newsquest bosses a fortune.
    We all want management to comment when issues such as this arise. But if this is the best he can do he would have been better off saying nothing.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 10:36 am
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    As a former Newsquest sub, I wish them well. However, I do not think they will achieve anything.

    The best course of action for all of them would be to take redundancy and find another career, away from the ever-declining newspaper world. Then, their skills and talents would be recognised.

    Someone who is 30 now has almost no chance of still being employed on a newspaper when they retire at 67 or whatever age it will be then.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 11:30 am
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    why are the management so keen to ship everything out of bradford local paper should be run in bradford not subbed out to wales and india the public pay for something we think is produced in bradford if it is a cost saving measure why do you keep putting up the prices but axing jobs, get a grip management what about being loyal to your employees and the people of bradford.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm
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    Your newspapers may be on sale as normal, Mr Coates, but your readers are deserting in droves.
    They know that Newsquest’s only loyalty is to its shareholders.
    Good luck to the strikers! Every journalist in the country should contribute to a whip round for them.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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    MC48 says, “The best course of action for all of them would be to take redundancy and find another career, away from the ever-declining newspaper world.” Maybe in the ever-growing digital world?

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  • February 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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    Surprised HTFP hasn’t reported fact ALL Newsquest papers will be subbed in Wales and this is only part of rolling programme. Lancs next then others to follow including Oxford and Essex.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm
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    It would make a lot more sense if they were bringing in Atex, but it sounds like they’re just creating a big subbing pool using old technology, with no communication between subs and reporters. Doesn’t sound like big savings or greater efficiency, just someone juggling the figures from region to region.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm
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    Glad I’m not working for Newsquest, who seemingly have little to no idea of how to keep their most important assets happy.
    I feel lucky to have been in this industry for nearly five years, but as one commenter said, there’s little chance of someone around my age working on a newspaper when they reach their sixties.
    Best wishes to the editorial staff at Newsquest.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm
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    Exactly, Subber. It’s the worst kept secret in Newsquest. Everyone knows it’s happening so where’s the coverage?

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  • February 18, 2014 at 6:07 pm
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    I was news editor at the Ludlow and Tenbury Wells Advertiser for five years before leaving Newsquest to join MNA. I had three reporters and we were based in Ludlow.

    This paper is now subbed in Newport.. A couple of weeks ago they couldn’t even spell the name of the chief ( and only) reporter who works out of an office in Wolverhampton or Birmingham or some such!

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  • February 18, 2014 at 8:11 pm
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    Mr Coates
    I was proud and privileged to be one of the strikers at York today and heartened by the positive public reponse to our dispute.
    The public of York, like everyone in the newsroom, know this proposal to switch production to a subbing hub in Newport is incredulous, callous and injurious to the integrity of a well-respected local newspaper. You cannot be a local paper and operate out of another city, indeed another country.
    Local does not mean more profit for shareholders in America and big bonuses for their English-based management lackeys.
    Local means serving the community of York.That is something which the three sub-editors you are proposing to uproot themselves, their families their roots, their livelihoods to an uncertain future in south Wales, have done exceptionally, skilfully and diligently.
    All these three sub-editors have a combined 60-plus years’ service to The Press. Yet all that local knowledge, all that skill, all that commitment and all that loyalty, Newsquest are prepared to dismiss with a “get to Newport or get out” offer.
    Shame on you Mr Coates, shame on you The Press editor Steve Hughes, and shame on all those journalists who are not prepared to stand alongside friends and colleagues, and who, by their inaction, are going along with a system that is discredited and of no benefit to local journalism.
    If you are in any doubt Mr Coates – the name is Tony Kelly, deputy sports editor, extension 261, email tony.kelly@thepress.co.uk.
    Again shame on you all

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  • February 18, 2014 at 9:05 pm
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    If subs do not want to transfer to Wales, there is no job for them elsewhere in the company, and they do not want to voluntarily leave, what happens then? I have watched colleagues suffer as they deal with these latest proposals and have been proud to stand with journalists at Darlington, York and Bradford today to fight for their jobs and the future of our publications. So far, no relocation package, no improvement on the redundancy ‘settlement’, no ACAS, and staff still face losing their jobs. That’s why we were out today.

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  • February 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm
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    “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.”

    Coates should really try the system for himself because he’s talking absolute rubbish.

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  • February 19, 2014 at 8:46 am
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    Quote: “…… a state-of-the-art editorial system which will make journalists’ jobs significantly easier”
    This is simply not true.
    It’s complicated and doubles the workload for newsdesks. They have sacked designers and half the subs and the same volume of work remains left to be done…
    It is cost cutting plain and simple.
    It’s funny how the bosses like it when they don’t have to use it

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  • February 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm
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    Dave Bowie and wtf,hell you are quite right. We’re already subbed in Newport. The new system means longer hours, more stress, hours spent waiting for templates and regular stupid cock-ups appearing in the paper.

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  • February 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm
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    It was disappointing to hear the editor of The Northern Echo, Peter Barron, talking on Twitter about the “true facts” and suggesting somehow the NUJ is misleading the public.
    As for David Coates his statement about multi-digital platforms and embracing new technology is just blather. He doesn’t actually say why it is necessary to move jobs to Wales. The ‘consultation’ is plainly also a sham. I agree with a lot of the comments here. This is just another Newsquest cost-cutting exercise, pure and simple. To dress up a 270-mile move from the North-East to Wales as a Tupe-transfer – as the company are doing – just adds insult to injury.

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