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Journalists to be balloted over South London cutbacks

shopperThe National Union of Journalists is to ballot a second group of Newsquest journalists over proposed cutbacks by the company.

As reported by HTFP last week, journalists at the group’s South London titles are being faced with redundancy or a pay cut as part of a cost-cutting drive which will see 16 weeklies placed under a single group managing editor.

An internal memo, which has been seen by HTFP, has revealed 14 senior roles are at risk of redundancy.

Although three new roles are being created and 11 vacancies are available, a number of senior roles are set to disappear and it is likely that staff who stay on will face the prospect of a pay cut.

Now the NUJ is to ballot members of its Newsquest South London branch over possible industrial action.

Earlier this week, the union announced it was balloting members at Newsquest’s York centre over plans for a net loss of 15 editorial roles across the publisher’s Yorkshire and North-East titles.

A statement from the South London NUJ chapel said: “Newsquest is continuing to fail in its duty of care to its staff, and also failing the communities in which it operates.

“With the company earning £52.8m profit in 2013, the business is more than able to invest to ensure its long-term future and we once again urge the company not to go down the road of short-term, damaging cost cutting.”

Laura Davison, NUJ organiser, added: “This programme of devastating cuts will make it much more difficult to hold people in power to account and to produce the high quality content readers and advertisers want.

“Our members are putting forward absolutely legitimate concerns about increased workloads, the impact on quality and the need for investment in editorial and these must be addressed.”

Newspaper titles affected by the proposed changes include the South London Guardian series which has editions in Croydon, Surtton, Epsom, Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Balham and Tooting, Mitcham and Morden and Kingston, along with the Surrey Comet, Elmbridge Comet, and the Richmond & Twickenham Times.

All of the above titles willsee their operations centralised in the Sutton office under group editor Andrew Parkes.

Journalists at the News Shopper series, which has editions in Dartford, Lewisham, Greenwich, Gravesend, Bexley and Bromley, are to work remotely in future.

Laura Davison said the NUJ would also be writing to the new Culture Secretary John Whittingdale to highlight what is happening at Newsquest London and across the company.

Gary Kendall, managing director of Newsquest South London said:  “We remain committed to providing strong editorial publications and will continue to hold elected representatives and local authorities to account, and keeping local reporting staff is key to this.

“The proposals are aimed at retaining the level of ‘on the ground’ reporting staff across all our titles, so that we can continue to deliver high quality journalist content for our print and online publications.

“The actions put forward consolidate two separate editorial management centres, and by combining the two we can generate operating efficiencies at a management level.”