A group of weekly journalists has voted to strike just days after most of their newsroom was put at risk of redundancy.
Members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest South London backed the proposed action, as well as industrial action short of a strike, following a three-week ballot.
The move comes after the NUJ claimed on Thursday that 11 editorial roles were set to be cut across the group’s 29-strong newsroom, although the ballot began before the announcement was made.
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.
A total of 71.4pc of staff voted for strike action, while 81pc backed action short of a strike.
Journalists were balloted over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees, and pay rates.
A Newsquest South London NUJ chapel spokesman said: “This ballot result shows members are more than up for the fight to not only save jobs, but to boost investment in our newsroom. If the company expects to implement these cuts with little resistance it’s in for a nasty surprise.
“We also question the timing of the announcement that 11 members of staff will be made redundant – and all bar two members of staff could lose their jobs.
“It smacks of cynicism and underhanded tactics. Almost all ballot papers were in the post before Wednesday 7 September. We couldn’t react to the news, because it was past our deadline to get our votes in the post.
“Clearly they are either treating this dispute with a complete lack of the respect it deserves, or they’re running scared – or both.”
Last week HTFP also reported that the South London titles would no longer have professional photography coverage after Newsquest ended a decade-long agreement with the Deadlinepix agency.
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 spokesman for Newsquest said: “We are disappointed that the union members have taken this stance. 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.”