Journalists at 18 weekly newspapers owned by Johnston Press have threatened to strike over planned staffing cuts across the company.
The National Union of Journalists’ JP Central Scotland group chapel say there is a “strong feeling” for industrial action among its members, amid proposals which the union says could see up to 100 jobs lost across the UK.
As reported by HTFP earlier this month, Johnston Press told staff to expect a series of cutbacks across its business and promised a series of follow-up announcements giving more specific detail of how individual publishing centres are affected.
It is understood the company is seeking up to 32 voluntary redundancies across its Scotland operation, which includes The Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News and 28 weekly titles.
A statement issued by the chapel, which has 42 members, reads: “The news of another round of fresh redundancies has sickened staff once again. It seems the only way this company knows how to save money is to cut journalists from its newspapers or close offices and now more newspapers.
“The Central Scotland chapel was ready to submit a case to the company to demand more staff before this announcement due to staffing levels being so low at the moment, so staff are seriously concerned at even the mention of further cuts, which will ultimately increase already heavy workloads and seriously affect the quality of journalism we give our readers.
“From what we have been told, papers not performing as well as others will be resourced less using UGC and shared copy, which will ultimately mean less local news relevant to certain areas.
“We may have a chance of fighting the proposals through industrial action, including up to strike action, which there is a strong feeling for in this chapel.”
The chapel covers newspapers across Scotland’s central belt including the Falkirk Herald, Linlithgow Gazette, Bo’ness Journal. South Queensferry Gazette, Cumbernauld News, Kilsyth Chronicle, Motherwell Times and Bellshill Speaker.
It also has members working for the Fife Free Press, Fife Herald, East Fife Mail, St Andrews Citizen, Glenrothes Gazette, The Extra (Glasgow), Kirkintilloch & Bishopbriggs Herald, Milngavie & Bearsden Herald, Carluke Gazette and Lanark Gazette.
The union statement comes two days after JP signalled it may sell off some of its 200-plus newspapers across the UK.
Four of the newspapers potentially affected by the strike action – the East Fife Mail, Glasgow Extra, Glenrothes Gazette and Linlithgow Gazette – were this week among 59 titles labelled “sub-core” in an email to staff, although the company has denied this signifies any intention to sell them.
HTFP has asked Johnston Press for a comment on the chapel’s statement.
On the union’s job cut claims, the company has previously said: “The figures quoted by the NUJ are worst case scenario and we will only know the outcome after the consultation period.”