AddThis SmartLayers

Striking journalists “overwhelmed” by public support

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.”

Journalists march through Darlington town centre as part of the strike.

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.

10 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • February 19, 2014 at 10:30 am
    Permalink

    Shame on Peter Barron. He should be standing up for his staff and the integrity of his newspaper, not attacking the very people who have the balls to make a stand over this appalling move. He would be the first one to be sounding off if another company in the North-east was cutting the jobs of loyal staff and outsourcing work to Wales. He surely must know that this will damage The Northern Echo and accelerate the circulation decline.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 11:21 am
    Permalink

    Last year Peter Barron fronted a high profile Northern Echo campaign to keep Department for Education jobs and work from being transferred out of Darlington – yet here he is supporting his own company doing exactly the same thing. Double standards? Hypocrisy? The Darlington public should be under no illusion as to who is misleading them.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 11:35 am
    Permalink

    Good idea when going on strike to let as many readers as possible know why you are taking this action so that they don’t think it is just another gripe over pay and conditions.
    Towns and cities such as Darlington, York, and Bradford stand to lose so much at the hands of David Coates.
    Publications that have served their communities so well for so long are now being destroyed by corporate vandalism.
    This is something that local councillors, MPs, chambers of commerce, community groups etc etc should be fully aware of because they will all be worse off if Newsquest gets its way.
    The strikers are flying the flag for journalists everywhere.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 11:52 am
    Permalink

    Presumably, the MBE ‘for services to journalism and community life’ was something to do with removing the former from the latter…

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 12:06 pm
    Permalink

    Unfortunately most editors nowadays are spineless ‘yes men’. Afraid of losing their cushy-figure salaries by siding with the troops in the trenches. Shame on you.

    But I take my hat off to those who put their necks on the line and stand up for what is right! Well done. You have the support of every hard-working journalist in the country who continuously have their careers threatened by idiotic, short-sighted and greedy ‘businessmen’.

    It’s a shame those of us at JP didn’t have the same support from NUJ HQ.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm
    Permalink

    Editors’ battles are usually fought in the boardroom, not on the streets outside the office.

    It’s true that these days most conflicts over staffing and costs are lost, but it doesn’t mean editors won’t have put up a fight.

    So what should they do if they lose? Resign?

    Then the company slots some child in a suit in the editor’s chair and the cuts go ahead anyway; the Great Martyr will be quickly forgotten by everyone except the signing-on clerk in the Job Centre.

    As one MD expressed it a few years ago: “The editor might be the captain of the ship, but the company OWNS the ship.”

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm
    Permalink

    I moved 200 miles away to a new job when my husband was made redundant from his newspaper post back in the early 1980s. As a woman who had been out of the industry while our children were small, the job I got was initially on a small weekly paper with ridiculous pay, even though I had previously worked on a daily.

    The costs and upheaval were quite high, we had to part-exchange our home for a new one as we couldn’t sell our old one, and then there was the expense of actually physically moving a home full of furniture. For the first six months I commuted each weekend.

    Because we left family and friends behind, and moved to a place where we knew nobody, my husband stayed at home to care for our children so we were worse off.

    Is it really the case that Newsquest are not even paying relocation expenses? Based on my experience, I don’t see how anyone will be able to afford to take up these jobs. It could take months to sell a home in York, Bradford or Darlington so these subs will need to pay for bed and breakfast in Newport, commuting AND all the current expenses they have running their homes.

    It seems to be a fait accompli that none of these people will be able to move to Newport, even if they wanted to!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 19, 2014 at 9:23 pm
    Permalink

    “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.”

    But there will be a lot less time to make key editorial decisions, in fact very little time to think full stop.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 20, 2014 at 7:48 am
    Permalink

    Good for the people of Darlington.
    This tyrannical move would rip the heart and guts out of the Northern Echo, a proud and fine local newspaper.
    It defies belief that Newsquest bosses, in their eternal wisdom, believe they can improve this North-East standard bearer by unilaterally uprooting subs almost 300 miles to faraway Newport.
    Talk about bonkers – and treating good honest journalists like dirt.
    Every journalist and member of staff at all three papers should unite and fight to oppose this toxic and utterly reprehensible action.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • February 20, 2014 at 10:27 am
    Permalink

    Newsquest has completely lost the plot over its plan for a one-size-fits-all subbing hub in Newport. Regional papers, particularly weeklies, particularly freesheets only have value or purpose when they reflect local knowledge. How difficult is that to understand. Subs working hundreds of miles away cannot be blamed for not spotting howlers but readers will see them a mile off, and so will advertisers. If readers have no confidence in the paper it will go in the bin with all the other junk mail. Advertisers will look elsewhere and the chain will collapse. Come on Newsquest, it’s a no brainer!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
Take part in our Reader Survey here