Five journalists have resigned at a group of cuts-threatened weekly newspapers where staff are due to begin industrial action today, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.
The NUJ says the quintet have left Newsquest South London since the company announced plans to axe 11 editorial roles across its 29-strong newsroom, with all bar two staff on notice of redundancy.
Union members at the group are set to begin a ‘work to rule’ today, and have also voted in favour of strike following a ballot held before the announcement was made.
The group’s NUJ chapel now says it has “no choice” but to consider further industrial action.
A statement issued on behalf of the chapel reads: “The company’s proposal for the future of this newsroom and its news output is indicative of its continual lack of appreciation for its editorial staff, and its repeated failure to recognise the hard work and professional pride that goes into their work.
“It is a great shame that, despite our repeated efforts over the past few months, our managing director and those above him will not speak to our chapel to find a way to solve this dispute. We want nothing more than to resolve this in the best interests of both parties in a timely manner.
“However, the chapel is frustrated by the lack of consistency and transparency shown by the company during this process and throughout the last six months. The chapel has no choice but to consider further industrial action unless the company can assure us that our demands are being taken seriously.”
Titles affected by the proposed action 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 new structure will see all the South London titles come under a single managing editor, with a team of 12 reporters, four content editors and a web editor covering the patch.
Several South London MPs and London Assembly members have written to Newsquest about the planned cuts.
Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, said she feared “young trainees who start off thinking they are beginning their dream career are dejected and burned out by the workloads and lack of support”.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “There is a stark dichotomy between management’s bunker attitude and the appalling reality on the ground for badly treated Newsquest employees in South London. We are grateful for the support we have received so far from politicians across the spectrum in south London and the NUJ Parliamentary Group.
“Our democracy depends on newspapers reporting high quality and relevant news. Journalists should be well treated for the work they do. That is what we want to achieve. We need to convince the company to wake up to reality and rethink their dire plans.”
Newsquest has declined to comment.