Journalists at three Newsquest-owned newspaper centres in the North of England are to be balloted over the proposed transfer of subbing jobs to South Wales.
As first revealed in November, the regional publisher wants to switch production of its titles in York, Darlington and Bradford to its subbing hub in Newport, South Wales.
Local NUJ chapel reps who have taken part in consultations on the plans say management have “refused to budge an inch” on the proposals and have refused to talk to the union’s Northern and Midlands organiser, Chris Morley.
Now the union has announced it is to hold a ballot of its members at the three centres on possible industrial action.
The ballot in Darlington will begin today and those in Bradford and York will commence on Wednesday.
The union says the move is in response to what it claims is the threat of compulsory redundancies and the impact on quality and workloads as a result of the transfer of subbing work to Newport.
No-one from Newsquest has so far been available to respond to the union’s claims.
Bob Smith, NUJ father of chapel at Bradford, said: “Management have refused to budge an inch during consultations on these flawed plans. They even refuse to talk to the NUJ’s official Chris Morley.
“Members have said managers’ responses show contempt for those who are at risk of losing jobs and there is real anger in the chapel. Moving to ballot for action is the only route open to our members given the frustration at the lack of progress on talks.”
Mark Stead and Tony Kelly, joint FoCs at York said: “This heartless, short-sighted proposal gives five staff with more than 100 years of local newspaper experience between them a stark and unacceptable choice – uproot yourselves 270 miles away or lose your jobs.
“Subbing hubs are a proven failure. They cause nothing but damage to the quality and integrity of local journalism while sacrificing talented and dedicated journalists with irreplaceable knowledge of their papers and their community, all so a parent company can continue to scoop up profits.”
The NUJ Darlington chapel said in a statement: “We are totally opposed to the transfer of our sub-editing work to Newport, Wales, which puts the jobs of 11 staff at risk and will mean our local newspapers and magazines will be produced by a centre 270 miles away.
“Staff who have given many years of dedicated service to the company are faced with re-locating or losing their jobs.”
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is yet another wrongheaded decision by Newsquest executives and yet again the chasing of profits is being put before quality local journalism, by a company that seems to have its definition of ‘local’ dictated by its American parent company.
“We will continue to campaign in parliament to ensure that there is proper protection for our local media and do all we can to support our members in Darlington, York and Bradford.”
Chris Morley added: “Our members fear that Newsquest’s bizarre plan to place editorial production of its local papers in Yorkshire and the North East in another country will cost the jobs of talented and experienced journalists.
“The chapels involved also believe strongly that their loss, and the production system envisaged by the company, will inevitably damage the quality of the titles and heap yet more work on already overburdened shoulders for those who remain in the newsroom.
“They are not prepared to let that happen without every avenue being pursued for a better alternative and one that retains the maximum number of jobs in the region.
“We want the company to take heed of the strength of feeling across all three centres.”