Journalists are considering strike action at the Sunderland Echo and Shields Gazette because of having to work very long hours.
Owner Johnston Press claims the hours issue has been settled. But the results of strike ballots have yet to be revealed.
According to journalists at the papers, the problems over long hours have been caused by the introduction of new page design software, which has regularly been leading to 11-hour days.
A staff member at Sunderland, who asked not to be named, said: “There’s an ongoing problem which has been leading to long hours. This new software system didn’t help and it has brought matters to a head.
“We have been working from 8.30am to 6, 7 or 8pm sometimes. It’s obviously playing havoc with people’s health and personal lives. We are not a militant newsroom, but there is only so much you can put up with.”
Johnston Press is believed to have offered staff at both papers one-off payments of £200.
Murray Kelso, crime reporter at the Shields Gazette, said he believed the problem was now resolved.
And in an e-mail to Press Gazette, he suggested that the NUJ at a national level might be getting the matter out of proportion.
Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler told Press Gazette he believed Kelso’s e-mail summed up the situation. He said: “As far as the company is concerned, there isn’t an issue here. Frankly it’s not a matter that is newsworthy at all. “There is no dispute between the company and its journalists. There have been problems with the new system, but they have been largely overcome. If there is any issue, it is one for the NUJ.”