Journalists at a regional publisher are set to go on strike in the week before Christmas over what they have termed “poor pay”.
According to the NUJ, Newsquest has made more than 100 people redundant since it took over the CN Group in March and the union claims other staff are set to leave before Christmas, leading to “huge workloads” for those remaining.
However Newsquest says it has actually increased the number of reporters on the News & Star from seven to ten, with a similar increase in reporter numbers from five to eight at Barrow-based sister daily The Mail.
In Workington, with an 80 per cent turn-out, there was a 100pc vote for strike action and action short of a strike, and in Whitehaven, with a 100pc turn-out, the votes were 80pc to take strike action and 100 per cent to take action short of strike action.
The NUJ chapel in Carlisle voted last month for action over the failure of the company to offer any pay rise, and has now accused Newsquest of having “driven away most of our most experienced local journalists”.
A spokesperson for the Carlisle chapel said: “If this continues, our newsrooms will be populated almost exclusively by junior, inexperienced and transient reporters, destined to move on quickly because they cannot afford to remain in a job where low pay rates confirm they are not valued.
“Carlisle members have been incredibly patient with Newsquest and were prepared to believe we were dealing with a management which aimed to turn around the company’s fortunes, allowing shareholders and staff to reap the rewards whilst offering a valued and quality to product to readers and advertisers.
“What we have seen however is simple asset-stripping, with staff treated with contempt and customers treated as collateral damage.”
“This is hardly the independent, dynamic regional journalism which readers deserve, have long supported and surely need more than ever in a world afflicted by fake news.”
A Newsquest spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the NUJ has taken this stance especially as Newsquest has in fact invested in a new state of the art system for the editorial department and actually increased the number of reporters than under the previous owners.
“Our primary focus is to ensure that these titles have a sustainable future and despite this strike action they will continue to be published in full.”