Journalists threatened with redundancy at a group of weekly titles are to begin industrial action this week following a vote to strike.
Members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest South London have notified the company they will begin a ‘work to rule’ on Thursday.
The action, which means journalists will strictly adhere to company or statutory work-related rules already in place, comes after it was announced last week that NUJ members working at the affected newspapers had also voted in favour of strike action.
The move comes after the union claimed that 11 editorial roles were set to be cut across the group’s 29-strong newsroom, with all bar two staff on notice of redundancy.
That announcement was made after the initial ballot, which was held over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees and pay rates.
Titles affected include the Guardian series in Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon, the News Shopper series covering Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend, and Greenwich, the Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet.
The Newsquest South London NUJ chapel has also passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in chief executive Henry Faure Walker, editorial director Toby Granville and regional managing director Tony Portelli.
A chapel spokesperson said: “Senior managers have shown they have no idea what our work involves and have no interest in finding out. They’re quite happy to lose readers by compromising our ability to produce quality news.
“The company believes our work is worth nothing and so all its cuts fall on reporters, editors and subs. We’re tired of being treated as disposable ‘non-revenue generators’ while Newsquest chases profit to send straight to Gannett in the US.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, added: “The chapel’s work to rule will expose the severe levels of understaffing that already exist at Newsquest South London.
“The company’s current proposals will have a detrimental impact on local news and on the journalists who work in South London. Our members just want decent terms and conditions at work so they can do a good job for the local communities they serve. The company’s actions show a blatant disregard both for its hardworking staff and Londoners who rely on the news and content they produce.”
Last summer, union members at the same titles held a strike which led to an agreement with Newsquest to pay trainee reporters the London Living Wage and reduce the number of job losses in a management restructure.
A Newsquest spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the NUJ and its members are taking this stance as we are undertaking a thorough consultation with our editorial team to ensure the best outcome for our valued staff, readers and newsbrands.
“We remain fully committed to our free newspaper portfolio in South London, but it needs to have a cost base that is sustainable. Clearly it is regrettable that this restructuring puts a number of roles at risk of redundancy, but we are doing this to ensure that the South London business has a credible future.”