Journalists at a series of South London weeklies are resuming plans for strike action after talks with management broke down.
National Union of Journalists members had been planning to walk out for a fortnight from today over publisher Newsquest’s plan to cut up to 11 editorial roles across its South London titles, based in Sutton.
The strike was called off on Tuesday evening after both sides agreed to hold talks at the arbitration service ACAS yesterday.
But the stoppage is now back on with the NUJ chapel at the papers claiming there had been “no meaningful consultation about the cuts proposed and no change in management’s approach.”
The strike will now begin next Thursday, 13 October, and will continue until the following Wednesday.
By law, the union has to notify the company at least seven days in advance of any action.
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.
According to the NUJ, the Wandsworth Guardian now has now reporters owing to resignations while the Croydon Guardian will be left with none in a week’s time.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “Newsquest’s behaviour is disingenuous to say the least. Chapel members agreed to suspend industrial action in good faith to meet for meaningful talks at ACAS.
“Sadly their scepticism about the company’s willingness to address the real crunch issue of headcount has proved well founded and has only reinforced chapel resolve.
“Simply moving the deckchairs on the Titanic is not going to solve the fact that as of next week there will be no reporters on one title and that another has limped along without cover for several weeks.
“Local management needs to get real, make the case to the top that these positions need filling and crack on with doing it.
An NUJ chapel spokesperson added: “Newsquest has treated us with contempt throughout this process and has dealt with us in bad faith at every turn.
“The company is the second largest local newspaper publisher in the UK and it is leading the way on destroying our jobs and quality journalism in London.
“Managers at all levels of the company have not taken our concerns about understaffing seriously and, even when they did, begrudgingly, agree to ACAS talks they then refused to talk to us properly and have shown they are not prepared to change their approach at all.
“Strike action is always the last resort, but we are 100% united to take action next week. We have been left with no other option because of Newsquest’s appalling plans to destroy our livelihoods, local newspaper titles and websites.”
A Newsquest spokesman said: “Contrary to the hyperbole coming out of NUJ central office, Newsquest believes passionately in the future of local journalism.
“We very much regret that this restructuring of the free newspapers in South London puts certain roles at risk, but it is precisely to ensure that these titles can continue to support local journalism that their costs need to come down to a more sustainable level. We hope the NUJ will think this through. “