Journalists are considering strike action for the second time in just over a year at a series of weekly newspapers.
The National Union of Journalists has announced its members at Newsquest’s South London titles are being balloted – citing inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees and pay.
According to the union, the proposed action follows a stress survey it conducted earlier this year which showed 88pc of staff often or always worked intensively and were not consulted about changes, 36pc had unachievable deadlines, 52pc did not have supportive feedback on their work and 56 per cent did not have sufficient breaks.
Newsquest papers affected by the possible action include the eight-edition South London Guardian series, South-East London’s News Shopper series, the Elmbridge Comet and the Richmond & Twickenham Times.
The group’s chapel has reported that newspapers covering Merton and Epsom have been staffed by lone trainees with no permanent editor, the 142-year-old Times will have one trainee reporter from September, and the Wandsworth Guardian will have no reporters once an intern leaves in the coming weeks.
It also says the Gravesend edition of the News Shopper has folded recently, while its Lewisham and Greenwich editions have been merged.
Last summer, the NUJ and Newsquest agreed a deal to pay trainee reporters the London Living Wage and reduce the number of job losses proposed in a management restructure after journalists in South London, pictured above, went on strike for 11 days.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The situation on these titles has become critical in terms of the strain put on the staff. What is so upsetting is that we have a group of professional journalists who are thwarted from being able to produce work to a high standard, but it seems the management doesn’t care.
“Young trainees who start off thinking they are beginning their dream career are dejected and burnt out by the workloads and lack of support. More experienced staff are leaving because of the way they are being treated and there is nowhere else for them to go – in vast swaths of the South-East, Newsquest is the only newspaper employer in town.
“They don’t want to go on strike. They are loyal to their readers and care passionately about the titles but their management refuses to listen. The union is seeking urgent talks with Newsquest to address these critical issues and avoid industrial action.”
The ballot will conclude at noon on 9 September.
Newsquest has declined to comment.