'Derry Journal survived famine but may not survive Johnston Press'

Journalists at the Johnston Press-owned Derry Journal are to ballot for strike action over threatened compulsory redundancies.

A statement from the paper’s National Union of Journalists chapel said: ‘The Derry Journal survived the famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press.”

In December, Johnston Press announced plans to cut 11 jobs by centralising subbing across Northern Ireland at a production centre in Craigavon, near Portadown.

The company said cuts were needed to secure its ‘long-term future”.

Since then, according to the NUJ, 15 members of staff across the division have accepted voluntary redundancy, but seven editorial posts at the Derry Journal remain under threat of compulsory redundancy if more volunteers aren’t found.

Now, to oppose the threatened cuts, the chapel will hold a ballot on whether to hold strike action.

A chapel statement said: ‘Several of those directly under threat are members of staff who have devoted their entire career – more than thirty years – to the Derry Journal. Is this how loyalty is repaid under Johnston Press?

“The Journal chapel strongly believe – and management have not disputed – that more job losses are likely to follow at the Derry Journal.

‘The threatened compulsory redundancies at the Journal is the latest in a series of swathing job losses at the Derry newspaper, since it came under the ownership of Johnston Press in 2006.

“Since then, we have lost more than 50 jobs as one by one, printing, accounts and production jobs were moved out of Derry.

“We are determined to fight to defend our jobs and the integrity of the Derry Journal and we hope there will be an overwhelming vote for strike action.

‘We will be asking for support from fellow trades unionists, our readers, advertisers, and politicians locally and nationally.

“The Derry Journal survived the famine, but we fear it may not survive Johnston Press.”

The Derry Journal is paid-for, and publishes every Tuesday and Friday. According to ABC, the editions’ circulations were, respectively, 18,342 and 20,606 in the first half of 2008.

On January 21, a strike ballot was announced at Johnston Press’s centre in Leeds after the company announced it was making three compulsory redundancies, and seeking 15 voluntary redundancies.

On January 19, the group’s Midlands division announced plans to end district subbing, cut 49 jobs, and create three ‘centralised sub-editing operations’in Northampton, Peterborough, and Milton Keynes.

Press Gazette contacted Johnston Press in Portadown and its Glasgow headquarters but no-one was unavailable for comment.

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