Journalists who went on strike yesterday over plans to transfer subbing roles to Wales say they were “overwhelmed” by public support.
Members of the National Union of Journalists working for Newsquest in York, Darlington and Bradford held a 24-hour strike yesterday in protest at plans to move production roles to the company’s subbing hub in Newport, putting 25 jobs at risk.
The strike went ahead despite warnings by the company on Friday that employees could be in breach of contract by taking part in the action.
The company yesterday sought to defend its plan to transfer the production roles and said its papers, which include Bradford’s Telegraph & Argus, the Northern Echo and The Press in York, would be on sale as normal and its websites unaffected.
According to the NUJ, there are 10 roles at risk in Bradford, five in York and 10 in Darlington.
But Northern Echo editor Peter Barron accused the union of “misleading” the public in a series of posts on Twitter last night.
He tweeted: “Very sad that some readers appear to have been deliberately misled today about The Northern Echo.
“If any genuine readers wish to meet me personally to discuss the real position at The Northern Echo, please get in touch.”
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, who was on the picket line at Darlington, said: “The concern of local readers to have their newspapers produced locally was inspiring.
“After marching through the town centre we handed out lots of leaflets. Countless shoppers and passers-by took time out to stand and talk about the situation facing journalists here and in York and Bradford.
“The clear message from readers was that Newsquest management is out of touch – readers want their local newspaper to be just that, a vibrant source of relevant news, information and entertainment, produced by journalists who are part of the local community and passionate about giving it a voice. It’s high time Newsquest executives listened to their staff and to their readers.”
In York, leaflets explaining the strike were distributed to nearly 1,000 people and City of York council leader James Alexander pledged his support, while the office staff of York Central MP Hugh Bayley brought tea and biscuits to the strikers.
At Bradford, a bouquet of leeks were delivered to Perry Austin Clarke, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus editor-in- chief, representing the 10 jobs going to Wales, and city council leader David Green agreed to meet the NUJ to discuss the situation.
Tony Kelly and Mark Stead, joint fathers of chapel at York, said: “We are immensely proud of the NUJ York chapel and those in Bradford and Darlington for the way they have stood up for their friends, their colleagues, their paper and for quality journalism today.
“They have refused to allow their resolve to weaken in the face of threats from Newsquest management and have shown character, intelligence, warmth, strength and dignity in campaigning for the future of their newspaper – York’s newspaper.
“Our message has been received and supported by the public, who know the human cost of these plans and the cost to their local paper.
“We hope it will reach the point where Newsquest has to listen, realise the damage these ineffectual and inefficient proposals will inflict on proud local newspapers and work with its staff and the NUJ to find a resolution to this dispute.”
Newsquest Yorkshire and North-East managing director David Coates said earlier this week that despite the subbing roles moving to Wales, all key editorial decisions would continue to be taken in the region and he expressed disappointment at the strike.
His statement also said that there were a number of vacancies across the region and the company was consulting affected staff about potential redeployment.
A story by the Telegraph & Argus about the strike said that fewer than a quarter of journalists employed at Newsquest Bradford had taken part in the union ballot and only 12 people had voted for strike action.