Journalists at a series of weeklies are considering a strike just weeks after a previous one ended amid a fresh row over Christmas holiday leave.
The National Union of Journalists has announced it is balloting members at its Newsquest South London chapel, claiming the company is trying to “cancel Christmas”.
The chapel says it has been promised there will be a total of 12 reporters working on Newsquest titles in the south of the capital by Christmas, but claims staff are being ignored over holiday requests for the forthcoming festive season.
Journalists at Newsquest South London went on strike for a fortnight in October, and have been undertaking a ‘work to rule’ ever since.
The ongoing dispute follows plans which would have seen a single pool of 12 reporters working across all South London titles, with all bar two of the 29-strong newsroom placed at risk of redundancy.
The union says the newsroom is currently being staffed by 10 reporters, with one journalist having handed in his notice days after returning to work, while editor Andy Parkes has asked Croydon Guardian readers to write the news themselves and publish it on the paper’s website as part of a “simplified process” for sharing stories.
A chapel spokesperson said: “We came back off strike to prove to the company that what they were asking of us could never work, but it came as a shock to see just how disorganised and poorly planned our new structure is, and just how willing Newsquest is to kill its own products.
“Newsquest’s new initiative to have readers submit their own stories – because there are too few of us to cover community news properly – is embarrassing, and will further undermine us as a local news outlet. We should be telling people what’s happening in their local community. Instead, we are asking readers to do our jobs for us. It’s farcical.
“We have been promised 12 reporters by Christmas, but with staff continuing to resign while people who are offered the jobs continue to refuse them, it’s hard to believe Newsquest can even manage this. In the meantime, we keep asking for holiday time over Christmas to be approved or even talked about, but we keep being ignored.
“People with families or who need to get out of London over the holiday period still have no idea when they will be expected to work. It feels like Newsquest are attempting to dish out the ultimate punishment to their striking staff by trying to cancel Christmas.”
Papers 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.
HTFP has asked Newsquest for a comment.