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Daily editor warns journalists to halt ‘harmful’ strike ballot

Neil McIntoshA daily newspaper editor has urged his staff not to go ahead with a ballot on strike action after warning it risks “harming” their titles.

Neil McIntosh, pictured, has issued the plea to journalists at The Scotsman, who are currently being balloted on possible industrial action over planned cutbacks at the Edinburgh-based daily and its National World sister titles in Scotland.

National Union of Journalists members at The Scotsman Publications Ltd, where 18 roles are understood to be under threat, voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action earlier this month in opposition to compulsory redundancies.

But, in a bid to deter his staff from proceeding with the action, Neil has moved to reassure them he is “working hard” on mitigating the requirement for compulsory redundancies and said he is also willing to consider voluntary redundancy requests from those not under consultation about their roles.

In an email to staff, which has been seen by HTFP, he wrote: “The NUJ’s full-time officers have done little to articulate their concerns. They’ve not offered an alternative way forward. The ballot itself does not clearly set out why industrial action is being called, or what the union hopes to achieve.

“But, from talking to colleagues who have raised their concerns directly, I do understand the depth of feeling about the restructure and the potential for job losses that it brings.

“It is happening because we have to protect the longer-term sustainability of our business. This is not something restricted to National World: the challenges we face – alongside our readers and our advertisers – are universally shared across our industry.

“This restructure will be accompanied by changes to products to help target our content better, and ensure that workloads do not come under pressure. In the months ahead we will change our products, online and in print, to meet our readers’ needs more effectively.”

The proposed cuts are set to affect the audio-visual desk, as well as sports, entertainment and property journalists.

They form part of a wide-ranging restructure confirmed by National World this week which will see the creation of 30 new digital journalist roles, while a similar number of existing jobs are to be made redundant across the group.

HTFP understands around seven new roles will be created in Scotland, for which those affected by the redundancy proposals will be able to apply.

Addressing “concerns” around the restructure, Neil added: “First, we remain in consultation on a number of proposals. We are working hard to mitigate the requirement for compulsory redundancies. Anywhere we can, we will reallocate people to alternative roles.

“Second, we are also willing to consider VR requests from unaffected teams across Scotland as long as we are able to maintain the skills required to drive the business forward. This takes some time, but we are working with those impacted to explore this option.

“I understand the upset and uncertainty these processes create. But moving to industrial action risks harming the business.

“I am currently away, but if anyone would like to speak to me or email with thoughts or concerns, I am available.”

A National World spokeswoman said: “National World has received notification from the NUJ regarding a ballot for industrial action in relation to restructuring proposals across our Scottish region.

“We have communicated with staff regarding this matter and remain in consultation with those impacted by the proposed changes.

“We recognise that this is a difficult time for all involved as we adapt to the challenges faced across the industry and the shift towards a more digitally focused future but firmly believe that industrial action is not in the best interests of our staff or our business.”

HTFP has approached the NUJ for further comment.