Backlash at the Telegraph and Guardian

Journalists at the Telegraph group have accused the management of treating them like slaves and are balloting on strike action in protest at 54 journalism job cuts and drastic changes to working practices.

Meanwhile, at The Guardian, long-held grievances over low pay for web journalists has led them also to ballot for strike action.

NUJ members at the Telegraph have voted by a margin of 91 to 0 to hold an official strike ballot.

They are particularly concerned that many of the redundancies are to be compulsory and that no extra money is being offered to staff to compensate for new 24/7 work patterns or for the cost of the move.

Some journalists are also unhappy about lack of consultation over the move, which was first announced eight months ago.

A total of 133 Telegraph staff are to be made redundant out of a complete headcount of around 1,000.

The latest cull of journalists follows the axing of 90 — all volunteers — in February 2005. It will bring the permanent editorial headcount down to 376, excluding casuals.

Telegraph Group is currently moving from Canary Wharf to Victoria and at the same time making "revolutionary" changes to work practices.

All journalists are to file for web and print as well as producing audio and visual work for new deadlines throughout the day.

Spokesman for the around 200 journalists in the Telegraph's NUJ chapel John Carey said: "The company seems to have totally failed to comprehend the level of anger and resentment about the way it's gone about the move to Victoria and all the changes associated with it.

"This is despite numerous warnings we have given over the past few months and our repeated requests to be involved in the planning — requests that have been continually turned down.

"The almost universal feeling here is that we are not slaves to the company, who can be forced to do whatever it likes. People have other lives outside work — families, homes, social lives — all of which will be drastically affected by these proposals.

"Morale has never been lower than it is now. We have made it very clear to the company that we are not against the move or all the changes that are being proposed. We recognise the need for change in the new media world, and we want the Telegraph to lead the way.

"But we are not prepared to be bounced or railroaded into it with no proper consultation and no proper reward.

"We have no desire for industrial action, we don't relish the prospect and we are concerned about the impact it could have on the company — but we will not simply lie down and have all these changes imposed upon us."

The chapel is also concerned that the axing of 24 editorial administrative staff — roughly half the total — will mean more office admin falling on journalists.

Previously, journalists on the daily paper have never had to work Saturdays — a practice that will change under the new system.

Journalists have also been told the first editorial conferences will start at 7am.

Next week the City department will be the first to move from Canary Wharf to Victoria and its staff have been told that three out of nine production journalists are to be made redundant. According to one Telegraph insider, staff have been told that a decision over who is to go must be made by the end of this week.

The balloting process over industrial action will take some weeks to complete.

Press Gazette put staff concerns to the management.

A statement said: "There is some limited scope for voluntary redundancies. Shift patterns will change, but journalists' overall hours will remain unchanged — therefore staff will not be paid more.

"We began consulting with staff and staff representatives on 4 September and will continue to consult in the usual way.

"Planning the move to Victoria from the start has given us the opportunity to challenge and review the way we work and will result in some job losses. We have made it clear from the start that every pound invested in the newsroom is a pound invested in the Telegraph as a whole. This move allows us to produce more online, while maintaining and, indeed, improving the quality of our newspapers and other platforms."

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